In April, Hammersmith and Fulham Council announced that it was closing Hammersmith Bridge to motor traffic, while still allowing cyclists and pedestrians to use the 132 year old river crossing.
The reason for its closure is to carry out “major safety-critical strengthening work”. The bridge was never designed to withstand the volume and weight of traffic that it carries in the modern era, which is one of the reasons why it’s suffered.
According to the council, one of the issues is with its construction using cast iron. The council stated: “Cast iron is brittle and prone to shattering – one reason why this is the only bridge of its kind in the country and one of only two in the world today.”
In particular, it’s the bearings that have been identified as the biggest problem. The website stated that over the course of several decades “the bridge’s bearings had seized up due to corrosion”.
“This has caused the bridge’s natural and necessary flexibility to become compromised,” it added.
The issues were identified during the weekly safety checks to the bridge’s structure that were introduced in 2015. The aim of these checks was to find out if structural damage was occurring due to the stresses being placed on the crossing.
Of course, its historical importance means that work will be carried out to repair it, with the council promising a full restoration of the crossing. But this could take up to three years, which means motorists need to get used to the diversion to other crossings over the Thames.
The council is working with Transport for London (TfL) and expects a full assessment to be completed by the middle of August, at which point they’ll have a clearer picture of the scope of the works needed, as well as their likely cost and duration.
A full restoration of the Victorian structure is expected to be costly, but as it’s an iconic landmark in London, it’s expected that the money will be found from somewhere.
Earlier this month, an article for The Londonist suggested that a toll system could be introduced to help recoup the money spent on the bridge’s restoration once it reopens. It cited a suggestion by Stephen Greenhalgh, Conservative party member and former Hammersmith and Fulham Council leader, who has recommended charging drivers 50p to use the bridge.
On its page dedicated to the iconic crossing and its current state, the council explained that a toll system isn’t being ruled out. However, the council stressed: “residents of Hammersmith and Fulham wouldn’t be asked to pay a penny to use the bridge”.
To accommodate the closure of Hammersmith Bridge, TfL announced changes to the bus routes in this part of the capital which took effect from 18 May. They included shortened or altered routes for the 33, 72, 209, 419 and 485 services, as well as a new route between Barnes and Hammersmith via Chiswick Bridge.
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