By Adrian Zorzut, Local Democracy Reporter
The leader of a London council has said the fate of Hammersmith Bridge is up to Sadiq Khan and the Government.
Hammersmith and Fulham council leader Stephen Cowan said the bridge, which has been shut since 2020, won’t be opened to cars unless £230million is raised to carry out essential repairs.
Councillor Cowan suggested one of the ways to do this was to charge vehicles crossing the Victorian-era bridge and claimed that its fate lay in the hands of London Mayor, Sadiq Khan.
During a council meeting on Monday, the Labour councillor said: “I think it will be up to the Mayor of London to decide what will happen to the bridge, ultimately, because it is a London issue rather than a Hammersmith and Fulham issue.
“I can tell you no council under any administration has £230million to spend on a bridge or to borrow the money to do it.”
He claimed the council was being asked to cover an ‘unprecedented’ one-third of the repair costs and had already forked out £20million to stabilise the bridge.
He said a decision on how the bridge will be used while it is out of action for cars won’t be made until stabilisation works finish at the end of summer.
This comes as plans were submitted for lightweight, electric autonomous shuttles to help people cross the river.
Cllr Cowan said: “The priority at the moment is for us to get the bridge fixed and what happens to it then is going to be a matter for the national government and the Mayor.”
Addressing a Hammersmith and Fulham Tory councillor at Monday’s meeting, he said: “It is ridiculous that we have had the bridge closed and that we’ve not had any proper support because it’s being used as a political football.”
Engineers have been working on the project since 2020 after cracks were discovered in the bridge along with other major defects in April 2019. The repairs set to take 10 years to complete, according to one report.
Hammersmith Bridge is one of the world’s oldest suspension bridges, according to Hammersmith and Fulham council.
It is a Grade II listed structure made out of wood and wrought iron with the suspension held in place by cast iron pedestals and is part of Britain’s engineering heritage and a national landmark.
Hammersmith and Fulham council claim they’re being told by the government to pay an “unprecedented” part of the repair bill which could have normally been paid by Transport for London and the Department for Transport (DfT).
A DfT spokesman said: “The council is responsible for decisions regarding repairing and reopening Hammersmith Bridge.
“We continue to engage with all relevant parties to find a cost effective solution, and are committed to providing up to one third of repair costs.”
They said decisions around what engineering options are taken and approaches to reopening are made by the council.
Deputy leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Conservatives said: “It is shocking that Cllr Cowan alleged that the Conservative Party is politicising Hammersmith Bridge when it is the Labour Party that have been pursuing an anti-car agenda .”
The Mayor of London was contacted for comment but did not provide one by the time of publishing.
Pictured top: Hammersmith Bridge has been closed since 2020 (Picture: Darren Pepe)
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