Published: 01/11/2022 By Allan Fuller
A two-tier crossing could be installed temporarily above the historic landmark to allow cars and walkers to cross the Thames while repairs are ongoing, the New Civil Engineer reports. It has been claimed previously that the structure could be operational within a year of gaining approval.
The Grade II* listed bridge was shut down in August 2020 after small cracks in the cast-iron structure expanded in a heatwave. It reopened to walkers and cyclists in July 2021. Experts believe the double-decker structure could shave £40million off the cost of fixing the bridge and reopen it to motorists sooner than planned. Hammersmith and Fulham Council is expected to formally move ahead with the temporary set-up by presenting a formal planning application to councillors in due course, according to the New Civil Engineer.
Hammersmith Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the world, built in 1887. The structure is made up of wood and wrought iron with the suspension held together by cast iron pedestals.
The first phase of fixing the bridge is underway, with £8.9 million spent on stabilising micro-fractures in the pedestals. The council’s cabinet agreed a procurement plan for the full restoration of the bridge, which is expected to cost £130 million in total, on Monday (10 October). The local authority also plans to introduce a toll gate on the bridge once it reopens to traffic.
Council leader Stephen Cowan said a toll charge would be the “greener and safest way” of moving ahead with the plans, which have been put forward to central government. He added: “It would charge the users of the bridge and therefore bring about the cost being to the people who most benefit from it.”
Cllr Cowan also said the stabilisation works could be complete by Christmas. He said: “The bridge will no longer be at risk of falling into the river. It’s absolutely right that our bridge could have collapsed into the river. It’s an ancient bridge held together by cast iron. If it had collapsed it would have been a national catastrophe.”
Councillors also agreed to spend another £5 million on the next phase of engineering works on the bridge. Two-thirds of the funds are expected to come from Transport for London and the Department for Transport, according to a report by the council’s assistant director of environment, special projects and highways, Ian Hawthorn.
The report said the council plans to use the funds to move gas mains off the bridge, outline plans for a temporary structure on the bridge and produce designs for a permanent model. It adds, “The works for which this capital budget is being sought are essential for the project for the strengthening and restoration of the bridge…This will ensure that the future project to strengthen the bridge can be undertaken with greater expediency, effectiveness, and minimisation of technical risks.
Speaking after the announcement, MP for Richmond Park, Sarah Olney said, “Residents of Richmond Park have waited over two years for action to fix Hammersmith Bridge, and I welcome the plan announced today. However, it is crucial that local residents see full disclosure of these proposals from the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, especially regarding this proposed toll. It is beyond belief we have not had a meeting of the Hammersmith Bridge Task Force in nearly a year, the government must now convene one immediately.”