As you may be aware, it was announced yesterday that Hammersmith Bridge has been closed indefinitely as a result of “critical faults” found after a routine safety check carried out on the bridge.
I know that many residents, myself included, use the bridge on a regular basis, and I am especially worried that hundreds of people were allowed to watch the boat race on this bridge last weekend, when it was presumably known to be unsafe. It is extremely concerning that the bridge has not been a priority for repairs, especially since it has been well known for years that work was needed, and it has been allowed to fall such a state that it has to be closed with no warning.
At this stage, both the timescale for repairs and a transport plan outlining alternative routes remain unclear. I will be pressing for this essential information to be provided as soon as possible, to allow local residents who use the bridge to make alternative arrangements.
I have been concerned for some time about the management of the bridge by Hammersmith and Fulham Council (H&F). Whilst I fully accept that the bridge may have to close for essential repairs to be carried out, H&F’s communication of this has been woeful for years and has left thousands of Richmond residents and our own council in the dark about closures and repairs. In recent years, both of the two previous Leaders of Richmond Council and I have written numerous letters to H&F to highlight our concerns – I am afraid to say we have never received a single response.
Sadly, this has been a long-standing pattern of behaviour, with H&F cancelling stakeholder meetings at very late notice and without explanation, and continually failing to communicate road closures to Richmond Council until only days before. I understand that Transport for London has had similar difficulties. The then Conservative Council even offered to take control of Hammersmith Bridge as it was being so incompetently handled by Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
Having tried to engage with H&F on the bridge for years, I am surprised and disappointed to hear that they are now blaming government cuts for the closure. If this were the case, then I am left wondering why they have at no stage raised this concern with me or, seemingly, anyone else before now.
It is my hope that the Government will now work with TfL and H&F to resolve this issue as soon as possible, including providing necessary funding, to put a plan in place to make the bridge safe and minimise disruption during the closure. I have asked the Transport Secretary to intervene as a matter of urgency.
A TfL spokesperson has told me: “Although funding the maintenance of the bridge is not TfL’s responsibility, we are working with Hammersmith and Fulham Council to identify a final plan for upgrading their bridge. We are also ready to support them in identifying the necessary funding for this work. Keeping local authority infrastructure in good condition is essential to ensure the wider road network stays safe and productive and helps the economy grow. We need the certainty of a long-term steady and sustained funding arrangement to allow London to cover the costs of its own infrastructure maintenance.”
Please note that following the announcement of the closure, bus routes 33, 72, 209, 419, 485 and 609 have been diverted or now stop short of their destinations. TFL advises customers to check their real time channels for the latest travel information. They assure me they are working closely with the borough to minimise disruption. Customers should go to @TfLBusAlerts or the TfL website for the live information.
I will continue to put all the pressure I can on those responsible for the bridge to make sure that it is safely reopened as soon as possible.
Click HERE to see Zac's Letter to Secretary of State