Wheelchair user’s nightmare commute drops by 80 minutes after Hammersmith Bridge reopens

By Jacob Phillips, local democracy reporter

A wheelchair user has told how his commute has dropped by a whopping 80 minutes – as the Hammersmith Bridge finally reopens.

Londoners living close to the now infamous bridge rejoiced as it reopened to cyclists and pedestrians on July 17 after an almost two year closure.

And wheelchair user Toby Gordon-Smith – who faced a 90 minute trip from one side of the bridge to the other for work – has welcomed the reopening.

The 46-year-old CBD manager lives on the Barnes side of the bridge and works on the other end of it.

But he had been driving for 90 minutes via Chiswick or Putney Bridge to reach Hammersmith Tube station or get to his work place – despite being able to see the other side of the bridge from his front door.

He said: “The reason I live where I live is because Hammersmith is one of the only accessible transport hubs in London.

“If you cut the link between me and Hammersmith there’s no public transport.

“To get into work I have to take Chiswick or Putney Bridge.

“That has been anything from 35 minutes to two hours. A 50 minute commute has now turned into a ten minute commute.

“If I had been asked to go to a meeting in central London I actually don’t know how I would have made that work.”

As a result of the bridge’s closure Toby has only travelled up to central London once in two years when he visited Euston Station as part of a business trip up north.

On that occasion Toby had to drive for over an hour to Hammersmith station before taking the Tube into Central London.

As a wheelchair user there are very few stations he can access to reach central London, such as Green Park and without being able to access these transport links he feels “completely cut off from the outside world”.

The closure has caused despair in the area ever since it was closed following cracks appearing on the side of the bridge.

Residents had been seriously affected by the closure.

Children had even been forced to wade through knee high water as a rising Thames cut off the only route around the broken bridge along the Tow Path.

Oonagh Lane-Kohli, who also lives close to the bridge on the south side of the river was forced to buy a car.

The 65-year-old said: “You had people who missed hospital appointments for cancer treatments, who could not afford a round trip getting to White City or Kings Cross.

“I can see the bridge from my window. I had to go and buy a car.

“What would normally take me ten minutes was taking me up to an hour.”

Oonagh was forced to move her car every two hours outside her work place in Hammersmith to avoid parking charges or she would face costs of up to £434.

Children in the nearby area have also reportedly missed school due to the extra commute time, often in wet conditions.

Oonagh added: “Kids just don’t want to go to school any more. It was a battle to get them out.”

 


 

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