Wednesday , May 22 2024

Hammersmith Bridge won’t reopen for at least another five years, Londoners are told on 5th anniversary of its closure – even if £250m is found for rebuild

Hammersmith Bridge won’t reopen for at least another five years even if the £250m is found for its rebuild, Londoners have been told.

It comes as the troubled Grade II listed bridge reaches the 5th anniversary of its closure to vehicles in 2019, with passengers being shut out the following year.

The decision to close the bridge was made by the owner Hammersmith and Fulham council after it found the 137-year-old bridge’s wrought-iron structure was riddled with cracks.

The shutdown of the Thames crossing has worsened congestion to much of west London as well as isolating residents in Barnes on the south side of the river.

Due to it being one of the first suspension bridges in the world, the work required to mend it would be extremely expensive and complex.

Hammersmith Bridge won't reopen for at least another five years even if the £250m is found for its rebuild. Pictured: The bridge closed in November 2020

Hammersmith Bridge won’t reopen for at least another five years even if the £250m is found for its rebuild. Pictured: The bridge closed in November 2020

Council sources said the extensive works required would included removing the pedestals at the end of the bridge Hammersmith Bridge which would take years. Pictured: The bridge being used by cyclists in July 2021

Council sources said the extensive works required would included removing the pedestals at the end of the bridge Hammersmith Bridge which would take years. Pictured: The bridge being used by cyclists in July 2021

When the crossing first closed, the council estimated the cost of repairs would be £40million and expected TfL to pay up. But TfL said it was not liable to cough up the funding and appealed for government help. Pictured: London Mayor Sadiq Khan

When the crossing first closed, the council estimated the cost of repairs would be £40million and expected TfL to pay up. But TfL said it was not liable to cough up the funding and appealed for government help. Pictured: London Mayor Sadiq Khan

The estimated cost of making the creaking piece of infrastructure safe for cars and buses has ballooned from an initial £20m to the current £250m.

Stabilisation work to allow the bridge to reopen to pedestrians and cyclists cost £40m.

The Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council which owns the bridge, Transport for London (TfL) which has strategic responsibility for city-wide transport, and the Department for Transport (DfT) have all been trying to avoid footing the bill.

The DfT had suggested the council and TfL each pay a third of the repair costs, with the taxpayer funding the rest.

Talks over funding the repairs have reached a stalemate, with sources admitting that there is no sign of progress despite understandable fury from residents. 

But council sources told the Standard yesterday that even if a cheque was written for the bridge today, it would take at least another five years before it could be opened due to the extensive works required which includes removing the pedestals at the end of the bridge.

Hammersmith Bridge, pictured when cars could drive over it. There are fears the bridge will never see vehicle traffic again

Hammersmith Bridge, pictured when cars could drive over it. There are fears the bridge will never see vehicle traffic again

Designed by the 19th century civil engineer, Sir Joseph Bazalgette, it was built in 1887 and opened by the then Prince of Wales. It uses a combination of cast iron, wrought iron and 999 individual wooden plates and features structural copulas and seven crests

The Victorian bridge is Grade II Listed by Historic England, meaning it is a ‘particularly important’ national structure of ‘more than special interest’

The DfT had suggested the council and TfL each pay a third of the repair costs, with the taxpayer funding the rest

The DfT had suggested the council and TfL each pay a third of the repair costs, with the taxpayer funding the rest 

Hammersmith Bridge has become a political swingball, with both Conservatives and Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan batting responsibility back to the other for failing to fix it.

Buildings that took less time to construct than the Hammersmith Bridge repairs

The Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, UAE

The Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai, UAE

A high speed bullet train crosses the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge

A high speed bullet train crosses the Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge 

Empire State Building, New York: One year and 45 days

Eiffel Tower, Paris: Two years, two months and five days

Danyang-Kunshan Grand Bridge (the world’s longest bridge), on the Beijing-Shangahi high-speed railway: Four years

Burj Khalifa, Dubai: Six years

Buildings that took MORE time:

Great Pyramid of Giza: 20 years 

Stonehenge, UK: 1500 years 

The constant delay’s to its funding has caused some to worry the bridge may never reopen to vehicles again. 

Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, believes money from the DfT is needed to foot the bill as no local authority would be able to cover the costs.

The cast-iron bridge shut to traffic in April 2019, after engineers found cracks in its pedestals. When the crossing deteriorated further during a heatwave in August 2020, it led to it being closed to all users. 

The Victorian bridge, which used to carry 22,000 cars and 1,800 buses every day in 2015, was reopened to cyclists and pedestrians after safety checks found it was safe in 2021.

Since 2019, drivers have had to cross the Thames via Chiswick or Putney bridges.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said after five years he ‘understood the frustration’ that a lot of residents and businesses have felt around the closure of Hammersmith Bridge. 

He said TfL would continue to work with the council but he also called on taxpayer money from the central government department of the DfT to repair the bridge. 

A Dft spokesman said it had already given £13 million to help restore the bridge – including almost £3million announced this week for a new cycle lane – but that a business case for the works needs to offer value for money for taxpayers.

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In December last year, extensive damage was done to the bridge after a party boat full of West Ham United fans hit it on the way to an away game against Fulham. 

The broken bridge has been a festering problem for the local area and has led to some embarrassment that it has been sitting idle for so long.

While it has been out of action with cracks, the largest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai was completely constructed. 

When the crossing first closed, the council estimated the cost of repairs would be £40million and expected TfL to pay up.

By 2021, the cost has soared to £141million – and it is now said to have reached £250million.

Hammersmith Bridge was one of the world’s oldest mechanical suspension bridges and Grade-II listed. Designed by the noted 19th century civil engineer, Sir Joseph Bazalgette, it was built in 1887 and opened by the then Prince of Wales.

The inside face of a crack

The outside face of a crack

The inside (left) and outside face (right) of a crack in the eastern pedestal were revealed in August 2020 after the ornamental casings were removed and it was stripped of paint by grit blasting

This graphic shows where 13 distinct cracks that were discovered in 2020 in the eastern pedestal of the bridge

This graphic shows where 13 distinct cracks that were discovered in 2020 in the eastern pedestal of the bridge

An original drawing of the pedestal, saddle and roller assembly on Hammersmith Bridge. The pedestals are cast iron castings forming a hollow cellular box, as shown in the graphic above

An original drawing of the pedestal, saddle and roller assembly on Hammersmith Bridge. The pedestals are cast iron castings forming a hollow cellular box, as shown in the graphic above

Hammersmith Bridge – the key facts and figures

How much will it cost? 

  • When the crossing first closed, the council estimated the cost of repairs would be £40million and expected TfL to pay up. 
  • By 2021, the cost has soared to £141million – and it is now said to have reached £250million. 
  • Stabilisation work to allow the bridge to reopen to pedestrians and cyclists cost £40m.

Could the repair be paid for with tolls? 

  • Possibly, Hammersmith & Fulham have previously proposed to the DfT that motorists pay a toll or road charge – but said H&F residents wouldn’t have to pay

Why can a new one not be built? 

  • The bridge is Grade II* Listed by Historic England, meaning it is a ‘particularly important’ national structure of ‘more than special interest’. It cannot be taken down without permission from the Government. The cost of a new bridge would be at least as expensive as repairing the existing one.

Source: Hammersmith and Fulham Council  

It is London’s lowest bridge, with a water clearance of just 12 feet at high tide, and one of the capital’s weakest, which is why weight restrictions have been in place since 2015.

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Due to the unique age and mixture of construction materials used in the construction such as wood and iron, the bridge needs bespoke care to look after it. 

Previously the council installed a £420,000 temperature control system to help prevent cracking in the pedestals.

Acoustic sensors were also fitted to identify further cracks.

The board for the Case for the Continued Safe Operation of the bridge (CCSO), which is advising the council, said these measures combined with engineering inspections mean the safety risk of allowing pedestrians and cyclists to use the crossing is ‘acceptably low’.

It said at the time that the ‘temporary measures’ were ‘not a substitute for permanent repair’, adding: ‘Without a funded plan for repair the limited current use must cease eventually.’

Due to the eye watering costs, over the years a number of innovative proposal were raised to see the bridge reopen while saving money.

One of them was a double-decker solution would see a temporary two-layer structure installed above the current road level of the bridge.

It would mean pedestrians will be able to cross the River Thames using the bottom layer, while road traffic will use the second level.

If this double decker solution is employed by engineers a total of £40m could be slashed from the project’s budget if it does get government approval.

Pedestrians will be able to cross the River Thames using the bottom layer, while road traffic will use the second level, say council chiefs. 

Due to the eye watering costs, over the years a number of innovative proposal were raised to see the bridge reopen while saving money. The temporary 'double-decker' crossing was an idea from 2020

Due to the eye watering costs, over the years a number of innovative proposal were raised to see the bridge reopen while saving money. The temporary ‘double-decker’ crossing was an idea from 2020

Elements of the Grade II listed bridge that need repair, include pedestals, anchors and chains

Elements of the Grade II listed bridge that need repair, include pedestals, anchors and chains 

The double-decker structure will allow the existing road approaches to continue to be used, and is designed to add no load to the current bridge deck – which will be removed in stages for repair.

Elements of the Grade II listed bridge that need repair, including pedestals, anchors and chains, would be lifted away using the temporary bridge and transported by barges to an off-site facility for safe repair and restoration.

The bridge is Grade II Listed by Historic England, meaning it is a ‘particularly important’ national structure of ‘more than special interest’.

So a new one cannot be built and maintain the Victorian heritage of the bridge, which was the first suspension bridge built over the Thames.

Up until 13 August 2020, hundreds of boats travelled underneath and 16,000 pedestrians and cyclists travelled across it each day including more than 1,000 school children from several London boroughs. 

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