Residents in Barnes, Richmond and across South West London were shocked last night when the Hammersmith & Fulham Council abruptly and without warning shut Hammersmith Bridge indefinitely when ‘critical faults’ were discovered.
Hammersmith Bridge is a vital link across the Thames for people north and south of the river. Its closure – and the consequent impact on six bus routes which are now diverted or will stop short – will affect many thousands of people directly, and even more indirectly as traffic dramatically increases on diversionary routes.
Sadly, rather than explain their plan to get the bridge re-opened, the knee-jerk instinct of the Hammersmith & Fulham Council – controlled by Labour since 2010 – and Transport for London – controlled by Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan since 2016 – was to blame vague and unspecified ‘government cuts’ for the closure.
Nicholas Rogers, Conservative London Assembly candidate for the South West, said, ‘this is a weak and disappointing response from Hammersmith & Fulham and TfL. Residents want to know what the plan is to get the bridge re-opened. Instead of taking responsibility, the Labour council and the Labour mayor are trying to hide behind the catch-all line of “government cuts”. This simply is not true.
‘Under Sadiq Khan’s administration, TfL has developed a financial black hole of £500 million, with his ill-conceived fares freeze costing around £640 million. Had the Mayor made more responsible decisions, there would be ample money to refurbish Hammersmith Bridge and this closure would not be happening. The disruption Londoners now face is a direct result of the Mayor’s unsustainable, irresponsible policies.’
Paul Hodgins, Conservative Group Leader on Richmond Council, said, ‘Hammersmith & Fulham have known there were serious problems with Hammersmith Bridge for years. We have been pushing for clarity on this issue for a long time and have been urging them to implement their refurbishment plans since before 2015. Huge amounts of time and money have been wasted, with the result that the bridge is now closed.
‘While Hammersmith & Fulham and TfL were clearly bickering, we called on Richmond Council to take control of the bridge – a proposal that had strong local support. But the new Liberal Democrat administration in Richmond themselves passed the buck. They had the opportunity to take the initiative for their residents but, unfortunately, they dithered and now Barnes and Richmond residents will suffer with the bridge closure.’
Shaun Bailey, Conservative London Mayoral candidate, said, ‘Let the story of the Hammersmith Bridge be a warning to all boroughs: you can’t trust this Mayor or TfL when they say help is on the way.
‘Just last autumn the Mayor informed Londoners TfL would be supporting the bridge’s repair, only to now turn around and plead poverty. Make no mistake, the Mayor’s poverty in this case is self-inflicted due to his mismanagement of TfL’s budget. And instead of being straight with Londoners he’s – once again – pointing the finger of blame. That’s not leadership.’
Zac Goldsmith, Conservative Member of Parliament for Richmond Park & North Kingston, said, ‘Hammersmith Bridge is a major river crossing and primary route for thousands of my constituents commuting to and from work every day. We have long known that it faced closure for long term repairs, but despite repeated attempts to make contact with Hammersmith & Fulham Council, residents, Councillors and local MPs have been kept entirely in the dark. Over the last four years, the two previous Leaders of Richmond Council and I have written numerous letters to Hammersmith and Fulham, and we have never received a response. TfL have told me they too have struggled to engage with Hammersmith & Fulham Council regarding the closure. We still do not know what provisions have been made to mitigate inevitable transport problems.
‘I have recently conducted a survey of local residents in order to ascertain local opinion. The results are stark – they show that the bridge is used regularly, and that the overwhelming majority have been impacted by its regular closures. The upshot is that many residents believe responsibility for the bridge should be taken away from Hammersmith & Fulham Council altogether. I have asked the Secretary of State to intervene as a matter of urgency and await his response.’