Updated: May 13, 2021
A long two years ago, Hammersmith Bridge closed to cars, buses and emergency vehicles, massively affecting the lives of thousands of residents in South West London and beyond.
Seven months ago, the bridge completely closed to pedestrians without warning. That evening, I saw people frantically trying to climb the barriers to get home and being turned back by guards. Since then, thousands of commuters, school children, the elderly and vulnerable have had their lives disrupted because of the failures of everyone to prepare for the worst despite the obvious vulnerabilities of the bridge. TFL was warned repeatedly not to run so many buses across the bridge. There was clearly no contingency plan in place. There should have been a plan for a temporary bridge in the event that Hammersmith Bridge had to be closed long term for repairs.
There has been a failure of cooperation and political willpower to find a solution for this vital piece of London’s infrastructure. A previously five minute journey can now take more than an hour.
The only agreed plan in place is a proposed temporary ferry with lower capacity than the bridge. Residents were promised that this would be operational this spring but it now looks likely that it will be the autumn. Road traffic has been pushed into adjoining boroughs with consequent effects on pollution. Large residential developments in South West London are still planned despite the obvious effects on traffic and pollution.
There is no agreed plan in place for pedestrians let alone vehicles to cross the bridge again. All this because of failures of foresight by all parties to have a robust plan for London’s infrastructure. As locals have commentated: this lack of planning is more worthy of a third world country than one of the world’s major global hubs and a capital which supplies a quarter of the UK’s GDP.
We asked our local GLA candidates what they would do specifically to accelerate a solution to the bridge, and how they would ensure no further bottlenecks in traffic. Here’s what they said:
Labour candidate Candice says she would call on the government to accept greater responsibility, and that it is unacceptable for H&F council to fund half the project when councils have been squeezed for years.
Nicholas Rogers, for the Conservatives, says the Mayor has a critical role to play. He would support Shaun Bailey's 3 point plan to build a temporary road bridge from TfL's cash reserves, would keep crossings free of charge, and push for a London Infrastructure Bank to fund full repairs.
He specifically referenced his own work with contingency plans at Waterloo station - and would work to review London's emergency plan process.
Green party candidate and Richmond Councillor Andree Frieze criticised the Labour and Conservative parties for simply blaming each other over the bridge. She says the Greens would open as soon as possible to walking and cycling so people have certainty, adding that the Department for Transport should fund the full repairs.
Richmond Council leader and LibDem candidate Gareth Roberts said that all bridges need to be taken out of the hands of local government because they simply don't have the budgets to maintain them.
He added that the temporary structure needs to be pushed through and for the government to come forward with the money first before looking at how it may be repaid.