H&F Council Leader Proposes New Tunnel Under Thames

Cllr Stephen Cowan says 'united front' needed with Richmond Council to get funding

View across Thames by Hammersmith Bridge

A new tunnel should be dug under the Thames in West London, according to the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council.

The idea has been floating around for years without gaining traction with TfL, but Councillor Stephen Cowan said the closure of Hammersmith Bridge makes this the time to "pick it back up".

Stephen Cowan Hammersmith and Fulham Council Leader

Speaking at a meeting in Barnes, he promised to fully restore the bridge, but questioned whether it would be able to take the sheer weight of traffic that it will be required to carry.

He said: "Do we think a 132-year-old British icon – which is how I’m selling it to the government when I’m asking for funding –  is going to be sufficient for the rest of the 21st Century? The answer is ‘probably not’.

" London’s population is scheduled to grow by 2 million – there’s climate change, air pollution. So do we want more cars driving across Hammersmith Bridge and more polluting vehicles, despite all the advances of technology?

" So in Hammersmith we have long looked at the idea of a ‘fly-under’, of reclaiming central Hammersmith back, getting rid of the ugly flyover, putting in a park, building housing, office space and reconnecting Hammersmith to the riverbank."

Mr Cowan said he hoped it would "drive traffic underground"
as it does elsewhere in Europe, and free up space for public use.

The tunnel would go from Hammersmith to "somewhere in Richmond borough", but probably Barnes.

Councillor Gareth Roberts Leader of Richmond Council

When Mr Cowan asked the leader of Richmond Council whether he would be "open minded" about considering such a tunnel, Councillor Gareth Roberts told him: "Let’s look at it."

Mr Cowan said a "united front" would be needed between the boroughs in order to get funding from the government needed to pay for the underpass.

Mr Roberts told the meeting: "As I said to Steve, I’m happy to look at it, but I know the difficulties you have when you try to build a basement extension in Barnes. Try to do a fly-under, you will appreciate those problems."


Calum Rutter - Local Democracy Reporter

July 5, 2019