Hammersmith & FulhamNews

Time for TfL to take Hammersmith Bridge out of council hands, says Tory MP

By Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter

An MP has started a petition to reopen Hammersmith Bridge to cars, buses and emergency vehicles.

Greg Hands, the Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham, is also calling for the bridge to be taken over by Transport for London (TfL), after what he described as five years of dither and delay by Hammersmith and Fulham council.

Stephen Cowan, Leader of the Labour-run local authority which owns the bridge, accused Mr Hands of only seeing its repair as an opportunity for political mischief-making.

The Grade II* listed structure has been shut to motor vehicles since April 2019, after micro-fractures were discovered in its suspension system. It is open to pedestrians and cyclists.

Hammersmith and Fulham has spent £30million ensuring the bridge remains safe. The Government is looking for the total repair costs to be split between the Department for Transport (DfT), TfL and the council, though talks have hit a stalemate, with ministers yet to approve a business case filed by the local authority almost a year ago.

Last week, Mr Hands  called for TfL to take on the ownership of the bridge from Hammersmith and Fulham council, describing the ongoing saga as a “farce.”

After starting the petition on his website, Mr Hands said: “The bridge has been closed for an astonishing five years now and the Government has exceptionally provided a lot of money to help them reopen it.

“It’s been five years of dither and delay from Hammersmith and Fulham council – they’ve had long enough to get on with it. Now is the time for someone else to take it over.”

Cllr Cowan said Mr Hands views the repair as an “opportunity for political mischief-making”.

He said: “First, at a public meeting in August 2019, Greg announced he’d advised the Secretary of State for Transport that no Government money should be given to help fix it, which was essentially a call for H&F’s residents to foot the huge total repair bill. Shortly afterwards, Greg bizarrely claimed he could get a brand new bridge built for just £7million.

“Now the Conservative government he belongs to has idly sat on the business case for almost a year. Meanwhile, Hammersmith & Fulham has spent £30million to make the bridge safe and is pushing on with the complicated repairs of what is an ancient suspension structure riddled with 70 years untreated corrosion and which was at risk of catastrophic collapse.”

TfL has previously said there are no plans to take on responsibility for the bridge. A spokesman said: “The bridge is an important transport link and we continue to raise the reinstatement of bus links across the river in discussions with the Department for Transport and the borough.”

A DfT spokesman said: “The London borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, as Hammersmith Bridge’s owner, is in charge of this project. The Government has already given nearly £10million to help restore the bridge and is reviewing the business case to ensure it is viable and offers value for money for taxpayers.”

Concerns have been raised as to whether the bridge will ever be reopened to vehicles, with the estimated cost of repairing it having risen to £250million. The council recently had to fork out £100,000 for repairs to its gantry, after a boat carrying West Ham football fans down the River Thames crashed into it last December.

Pictured top: Hammersmith Bridge (Picture: LDRS)

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