Grant Shapps demands Hammersmith Bridge be reopened this summer

Grant Shapps DEMANDS Sadiq Khan get Hammersmith Bridge reopened to pedestrians and cyclists by summer as he pledges millions of pounds in Government funding to help cover the cost of the huge repair bill

  • Grant Shapps says the Department for Transport will fund a third of bridge repair
  • But he called on council and TfL to get bridge open to pedestrians this summer
  • Bridge has been closed to traffic since April 2019 after cracks were discovered
  • There are fears the repairs could take years due to the complicated nature of fix
  • The council has proposed a £3 toll and a temporary double-decker structure
  • But Mr Shapps said he is becoming ‘concerned’ about the speed of the project 

Grant Shapps has demanded Sadiq Khan reopen Hammersmith Bridge this summer, after pledging millions of pounds in Government funding to help fix the cracked crossing.

In an open letter to London’s Labour mayor, the Transport Secretary said he was growing ‘very concerned’ about the lengthy closure of the 134-year-old bridge.

The cast-iron structure has been shut to traffic since April 2019 – when engineers found cracks in its pedestals. It has been closed to pedestrians and cyclists since last summer.

There are fears that the complicated repairs to the structure could take up to six years to complete.

Meanwhile, a row has been brewing between the Government, Transport for London (TfL) and local council officials over who will foot the eventual repair bill – which could spiral to more than £100million. 

In a bid to break the deadlock, Mr Shapps yesterday revealed the Government had offered to pay a third of the costs.

But he said the money came with the expectation that Mr Khan, and Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council, reopen the bridge to pedestrians this summer.

He also called on TfL and council chiefs to ‘urgently’ reveal plans to get the bridge reopened to traffic in the near future.

In an open letter to the London Mayor, published on the day the Government announced a new £1billion Covid bailout for TfL, he said: ‘I have been very concerned to see Hammersmith Bridge – a major London conduit over the Thames – left closed for such a long time. 

Grant Shapps has demanded Sadiq Khan reopen Hammersmith Bridge (pictured) this summer, as he last night pledged millions of pounds in funding to help fix the cracked crossing

Today Mr Shapps (pictured left) revealed the Government had offered to pay a third of the costs in a bid to break the deadlock the bill for the repairs. But he said the money came with the expectation that Mr Khan (pictured right), and Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council, reopen the bridge to pedestrians this summer

The open letter in which Hammersmith Bridge was mentioned came as the Department for Transport announced a £1billion bailout for Transport for London

Government announces new £1billion bailout for Transport for London 

The Government yesterday announced a new £1billion bailout for Transport for London.

Ministers say the money is to help fund the capital’s transport network as ‘we progress along the Government’s roadmap through the pandemic’.  

The funding will cover up until December 2021, ministers say, and follows two previous emergency support packages agreed in April and October 2020.

It takes the total government’s support since March 2020 to over £4billion.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘This £1.08 billion financial package will support London and its transport network through the pandemic, and ensure it is a modern, efficient and viable network for the future. 

‘Throughout this process, the government has maintained that these support packages must be fair to taxpayers across the UK and on the condition that action is taken to put TfL on the path to long-term financial sustainability. 

‘As part of today’s settlement, the Mayor has agreed to further measures that will help ensure that.’

‘The bridge belongs to the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham and the maintenance and upkeep falls entirely in their hands. This would normally be supported by TfL.

‘The Government has made a generous offer for the reopening Hammersmith Bridge and I expect that we will see the bridge open to pedestrians and cyclists this summer, subject to confirmation of engineer reports.’

He added: ‘Whilst I am sure this will be a welcome step forward, the end goal must be for the bridge to be reopened to motorised traffic. 

‘In the coming months I expect to see a robust plan from the Council for the initial stabilisation works as the first step to setting out how that will be achieved.’

Mr Shapps believes the bridge, which connects Hammersmith and Barnes, can be fixed for around £90million.

This is £50million less than the TfL and council estimates, which are currently in excess of £140million.

Under his proposed funding deal, this would mean the Government, TfL and the council – who are ultimately responsible for the bridge’s upkeep – would each contribute £30million to the repairs.

But the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council last night dismissed the Mr Shapps’ funding announcement as ‘party politics’. 

In a statement to MailOnline, councillor Stephen Cowan said: ‘The announcement demonstrates the contempt this Government, and its absurdly named Taskforce, has for the people of south-west London. 

‘It is simply more of the same party political game-playing that has characterised its approach throughout.

‘Hammersmith Bridge is one of the world’s oldest mechanical suspension bridges and one of the most expensive in Britain to repair. 

Mr Shapps believes the bridge, which connects Hammersmith and Barnes, can be fixed for around £90million – less than the TfL and council estimates in excess of £140million

The leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Borough Council, councillor Stephen Cowan (pictured) last night dismissed the Mr Shapps’ funding announcement as ‘party politics’

‘Yet the Government is seeking to impose an unprecedented 33 per cent of the cost on Hammersmith & Fulham. 

Hammersmith Bridge timeline: Why will the repairs take so long? 

  • Stage one: Start ferry contract – 66 working days (three months) after funding is released. It is now hoped this will start in February 2021
  • Then: Four months to ‘understand’ condition of the bridge’s pedestals at a cost of £13.9m
  • Then: Emergency stabilisation work for seven months at a cost of £13.9m
  • Then: Permanent stabilisation work, taking 21 months at a cost of £32m
  • Then: Bridge strengthening, taking 30 months, for £80m.
  • Total: 65 months, or five years and five months
  • This still falls short of the projected six and a half year timeline 

‘That is tens of millions of pounds more than any other London council has ever paid for bridge repairs and comes on top of the record £8.6million we are already paying.’

He said the council had proposed alternative measures to get the bridge reopened, including a double-decker temporary bridge and a proposed toll charge to cover the cost of the repairs.

‘These proposals – all of which are ignored in today’s announcement – provide the best value for local and national taxpayers and deliver on the bridge reopening to all traffic, including pedestrians, cyclists public transport, and motor vehicles, supporting people on both sides of the river and beyond,’ councillor Cowan added.

MailOnline contacted TfL for a comment last night.  

Earlier this year it was revealed how a £3 toll for motorists could be introduced on Hammersmith Bridge to help foot the costs of its long-running repair works.

The council drew up the ‘radical plans’ to make the bridge operational after almost two years out of action. 

The council said ‘early assessments’ indicate motorists would pay an average of £3 to drive across the bridge. 

It claimed its plan would help reduce restoration costs to ‘around £100 million’ and allow traffic to use it from the middle of 2022.

In the meantime the bridge would have a ‘double-decker’ structure, with an upper level carrying cars and buses, while pedestrians and cyclists would use the lower level, the council said.

This is a computer generated plan of a proposed temporary Hammersmith Bridge, alongside the original, which is not set to be back to normal until 2027 as it is repaired

Plans to reopen the bridge with a temporary ‘double-decker’ crossing were also unveiled last month. Council chiefs plan to install the two-layer structure above the current road level

The proposed double-decker crossing will not place a load on the current structure – allowing engineers to continue work on the bridge as planned

A technical study conducted jointly by architects Foster + Partners and specialist bridge engineers COWI found it is ‘feasible’ using the existing bridge foundations.

The full restoration would be completed in 2023, under the council’s own plan.

The council also suggested ownership of the Grade II listed bridge could be transferred to a charitable trust.

Meanwhile, it was announced in March that Uber will operate a replacement ferry service while repairs to Hammersmith Bridge continue.

The private hire firm has been handed the contract to take pedestrians and cyclists across the Thames at a proposed charge of £1.55.

TfL said Uber Boat by Thames Clipper hopes to run crossings from 6am to 10pm and transport 800 passengers per hour on its catamaran.

In April this year, Hammersmith Bridge SOS, a group of rowers, including former British Olympians and Oxford and Cambridge boat race competitors, took part in a demonstration in front of Hammersmith Bridge in west London over the government’s inability to agree a repair plan for the bridge

But the boat service won’t start until the end of summer, likely dismaying exasperated locals who have been without a nearby crossing for almost two years.

The cost of contracting Uber Boat by Thames Clipper is also being withheld and will not be published until after the local elections in London on May 6.

However it is believed the ferry service hinged on Government funding provided as part of the ongoing TfL bailout.

In February fed up residents illuminated Hammersmith Bridge in red in a Valentine’s Day in protest at the continual closure of the bridge.

Boat-enthusiasts also protested on the Thames. River traffic is currently unable to pass under the bridge due to safety concerns.

It lead the annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge to be held away from its traditional Thames home last year. 

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