Hammersmith Bridge to re-open to cyclists and pedestrians

15/07/2021
Dominic Browne

Hammersmith Bridge is to re-open at 9am on Saturday (17 July) to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic, after a long-running closure.

In April 2019, the Grade II structure was closed to motor vehicles on public safety grounds after cracks were found in the cast iron pedestals that hold the suspension mechanism in place.

Then in August 2020, after the cracks widened during a heatwave, expert engineers warned that it could face a sudden, catastrophic collapse and so the bridge was immediately closed to all, including pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic under the bridge.

The decision to reopen to non-motor traffic follows 'a series of comprehensive safety investigations into the bridge and the successful introduction of an innovative temperature control system that helps prevent cracking in the 19th century cast iron pedestals', Hammersmith and Fulham Council said.

Council leader Stephen Cowan said: 'I am very pleased to confirm the latest advice from safety engineers is that we can safely re-open Hammersmith Bridge. We have instructed the team to do that. It will open this weekend.

'I know how difficult the last eleven months have been for people, particularly children needing to cross the river to get to school and those who need to attend medical appointments or get to work.'

Some 12,000 pedestrians and 4,000 cyclists used the bridge each day before the closure.

Cllr Cowan added the council is 'moving at full speed to draw up a timetable for the full repair and restoration of the Grade II listed bridge which will eventually see cars and buses allowed across the river'.

The recommendation to re-open was made following a special meeting of the Board for the Case for the Continued Safe Operation of Hammersmith Bridge (CCSO), the body which provides safety advice to the council about the bridge.

The CCSO confirmed that a series of engineering investigations including an industry standard Category 3 safety check and reviews of the pedestal casings and a suspect chain knuckle joint had been undertaken.

'All these points have now been confirmed satisfactorily and they effectively allow the re-opening of the bridge to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic,' said the CCSO.

It added that 'safety risk is kept acceptably low' due to the temperature control system on the anchor chains and the use of acoustic sensors which have been installed to issue alerts on further crack movements.

The CCSO statement concludes: 'These arrangements are temporary measures and not a substitute for permanent repair. The application of a permanent solution remains a priority. Without a funded plan for repair the limited current use must cease eventually. It is not acceptable in managing safety risk to rely upon interim measures indefinitely.'

Hammersmith and Fulham Council is the highway authority for Hammersmith Bridge and is responsible for its maintenance and repair.

However, Transport for London normally pays the vast majority of repair and maintenance costs for London councils’ bridges.

The council is working on a plan to fund the full restoration programme with the Department for Transport and TfL, which includes the proposal to introduce a road charging or toll scheme.

Cllr Cowan ruled out increased council tax or cuts in public services to pay the borough’s share of the bill.

The council is considering engineering solutions including a pioneering double-decker engineering solution developed by architects Foster + Partners and bridge engineers COWI. The plan, which would see a temporary truss laid over the existing decking, would see motor vehicles return and save approximately £40m while potentially cutting three years off the current timetable

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