Stephen Cowan has sleepless night over funding repairs
Hammersmith Bridge viewed from Castelnau. Picture: Reach/Darren Pepe
The future of the Hammersmith Bridge is in doubt as politicians refuse to agree on the cost of the repairs.
The 135-year-old bridge is a major route in and out of London and used regularly by residents in Hammersmith and Fulham (H&F) and Richmond.
It closed in August 2020 after experts found cracks in the metalwork that could cause it to collapse. It is expected to re-open to traffic in 2027.
A task force was set up with central government, TfL and both councils in September 2020 to fix and fully re-open the bridge.
But they continue to bicker over the costs more than a year later, according to Hammersmith’s council leader.
H&F Council leader Stephen Cowan told BBC London that fixing the bridge is expected to cost £141 million but politicians cannot agree on where the money will come from.
The bridge belongs to H&F Council but it wants central government and TfL to help with funding.
Cllr Cowan says the authority cannot afford the government’s suggestion that it pays a third of the repair costs.
He said, “It’s Britain’s most expensive bridge to fix. We can’t afford it.”
Cllr Cowan said he has had sleepless nights over the bridge and the council’s budget has dropped by around £60 million since the Tory-Lib Dem coalition in 2010.
The council reopened the bridge to walkers and cyclists in July after installing a cooling system to keep it safe.
It will spend a further £8.7 million to prevent the bridge falling into the river.
Cllr Cowan said, “I understand why people are frustrated. It has been an absolute horror that the bridge has been closed.”
Plans for a ferry service across the route were recently axed by the task force.
Cllr Cowan said this is because there was not enough demand for the service rather than politicians being unwilling to spend money.
He added, “It’s futile. It’s not that it’s not economically viable.”
TfL, the Department for Transport and Richmond Council were contacted for comment.
Hannah Neary - Local Democracy Reporter
December 3, 2021