Due to fears it is no longer safe for mass of people as it awaits major repairs
Each year up to 270,000 people gather on the banks of the Thames to watch the Boat Race, with Hammersmith Bridge – at the approximate midpoint of the annual contest – a favourite viewing platform.
But this year there will be no access to the bridge from midnight to 5pm on Boat Race day for safety reasons as work continues to secure the Victorian structure’s long-term future.
H&F Council said it was asked by police to close the bridge to pedestrians due to fears that it was no longer safe for it to hold the mass of people expected on race day.
However, Conservative London Assembly member Tony Devenish said the closure showed why the bridge needed to secure funding for repairs immediately.
" With pedestrians and cyclists unable to use the bridge at the end of the month, there can be little doubt that this situation is getting worse, not better," he said.
"This development will not only come as a massive disappointment to all those who were looking forward to watching the Boat Race, it will also raise concerns about the future of our bridge."
The bridge has been closed to cars last April after the council found several hairline micro-fractures in the cast iron casing around the pedestals that have held the suspension chains in place since 1887.
Last week, the council said that, following a detailed investigation by a team of specialist engineers, it had agreed with Transport for London the works needed to repair Hammersmith Bridge.
It added that the first stage of the work has now begun, with £25 million provided by TfL, ahead of the planned award of a contract for the next stage of the works next spring.
Part of this work, as shown above, includes removing, wrapping and tagging historic decorative fixtures.
Early stage estimates indicate the work, expected to take around three years, could cost £120 million, although the council says this is an early estimate and it includes a contingency due to the unknowns, complexities and challenges inherent in repairing such an aged, Historic England listed structure.
The council said engineers will continue to refine this estimate as the project progresses.
TfL and H&F Council say they are continuing to explore the most appropriate funding route for the main construction.
In a parliamentary debate on Tuesday 3 March, Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter referred to a bid for funds made by TfL and H&F Council under the Large Local Majors (LLM) scheme, saying: "We have to look to Government when major strategic assets fail. That is the case in most of the rest of the country.’"
He also asked transport minister Kelly Tolhurst to provide "some encouraging noises - even if she has not brought the cheque with her."
Ms Tolhurst, standing in for roads minister Baroness Vere, replied: "The Government support the efforts to repair Hammersmith bridge and bring it back into operation in a cost-effective and speedy manner.
"However, we must recognise that it is for the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, as the owner of the bridge, to assess the merits of different funding options for its repair.
"‘Local highways authorities such as Hammersmith and Fulham Council have a duty under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the highways network in their area."
She added: "We have received the proposal from TfL for the repair works, and that is being considered. Baroness Vere welcomes the opportunity to work with honourable members and the council to try to find a way of bringing Hammersmith bridge back into use for the benefit of everybody."
Meanwhile Transport for London confirmed this week that it has ordered detailed designs for a temporary pedestrian link across the River Thames in West London, to be used while repairs are being carried out on the bridge. These designs will be finalised by October.
TfL said a temporary bridge is required to maintain access for the 16,000 people currently crossing the river on foot or by bike every day, and it would also simplify and speed-up repairs to the main bridge.
March 4, 2020