A Government task force has been launched to reopen a west London bridge closed to motor traffic for nearly one-and-a-half years due to structural problems.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there has been “a lack of leadership” in the capital to fix Hammersmith Bridge.
Cracks in the pedestals led to motor vehicles being prohibited from using the 133-year-old cast iron bridge in April 2019.
Londoners have waited too long for #HammersmithBridge to be fixed so they can get on with their journeys. That's why today I've established a task force and called in specialist engineers to deliver rapid solutions pic.twitter.com/UkMb85Ep6P— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) September 9, 2020
On August 13, Hammersmith and Fulham Council said a heatwave caused the faults to “significantly increase”, leading it to close the crossing to all users and ban vessels from sailing underneath it.
The local authority, which owns the bridge, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson later that month stating the estimated cost to make it safe and “avoid a potential catastrophic failure” is £46 million.
The letter said: “No local authority has that kind of money available. We therefore write to ask that the Government funds this work as a matter of urgency.”
Announcing the creation of the task force, Mr Shapps said: “There has been a lack of leadership in London on reopening this vital bridge.
“It’s stopped Londoners moving about easily and caused huge inconvenience to everyone, adding extra time to their commute or journeys.
“We won’t let hard working Londoners suffer any longer. The Government is setting up a task force to establish the next steps in opening the bridge as speedily as possible.
“We’ll be decisive and quick to make sure we can take steps that’ll be good for commuters, good for residents and good for business.”
The task force, led by transport minister Baroness Vere, will initially work towards reopening the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, before moving on to enabling the return of motor traffic.
The Department for Transport has commissioned its own engineering advice on the state of the bridge.
A spokesman for Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “Londoners need the Government to pay to get Hammersmith Bridge repaired and reopened – they do not need another talking shop that will just lead to more delay and disruption.
“The Mayor and TfL (Transport for London) will continue working closely with the bridge owners Hammersmith and Fulham Council and the Government to find an urgent solution, but it’s time for ministers to put their money where their mouth is.”