Leading contenders set out their plan to get it reopened
Hammersmith Bridge lit up. Picture: Hammersmith Bridge SOS
Residents have looked on in disbelief at the debacle over Hammersmith Bridge, since cracks in its Victorian pedestals forced its closure two years ago.
With less than a fortnight to the London mayoral election, candidates from the four main parties have stated how they think it should be fixed and who should pay for it.
Only one detailed proposal is currently on the table, and that’s Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s collaboration with architects Foster + Partners and engineers COWI.
This plan would cost about £100 million using money the council would borrow and pay back over several decades by charging motorists a toll, which would need legal permission from the Transport Secretary. The Labour council hopes this repairs scheme would take less than a year and a half.
But money has been the sticking point, with the council, the Government and TfL – with its deeply troubled finances – still arguing over who should pay what share of the upfront costs.
So what does the incumbent Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan think should happen next? Under his control, TfL has so far spent £8 million since 2019, including on monitoring the bridge, the long-awaited ferry crossing, and the abandoned temporary pedestrian and cycling bridge.
He said, “Hammersmith Bridge is a unique Victorian structure, with a repair bill that is far higher than any individual local authority could afford.
“Its closure has caused massive disruption for thousands of people and we can’t have any more red tape and political game-playing in coming up with a solution for this vital crossing.
“Everyone has been willing to come to the table and contribute funding – except the Government.
“It’s now time for ministers to put their money where their mouth is – they need to either approve one of the existing proposed schemes, or come up with an alternative urgently.”
Without suggesting how much TfL should contribute, he said the costs should be shared “fairly” between “all parties”.
Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey once found himself in hot water after mistakenly saying at the 2020 Tory party conference that the Government had agreed to pay for the repairs.
Mr Bailey now says he does not support the council’s proposal or anything that involves a toll.
He said, “Instead, I’ve got a three-point plan for Hammersmith Bridge. I will build a temporary road crossing, based on the Beckett Rankine, Fosters + Partners, or another valid proposal. I will make sure it has no tolls or charges. And I will use the London Infrastructure Bank that I set up to fund repairs to the main structure.
“This is the only realistic plan to get Hammersmith Bridge fixed, help residents get moving, and give London a fresh start.”
Mr Bailey has previously said his Infrastructure Bank would hope to raise £10 billion from “private investors”, who would be paid back with profits made by the completed infrastructure projects.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrat Luisa Porritt appears to be Londoners’ third most popular choice for Mayor, according to a recent poll for ITV by ComRes.
Ms Porritt said, “If the Government had stood up to the plate in the first place and simply committed to funding the bridge repairs properly then consideration of a toll wouldn’t be needed.
“At the very least I hope that concessions will be offered to older residents and disabled blue badge holders who could be hit particularly hard by a £3 journey toll.
“The Government is the only body with the funds to foot the bill. The Mayor could make a bigger contribution if the £2 billion polluting Silvertown Tunnel road project was scrapped, and that is exactly what I’d do.
“But ultimately any candidate claiming they can fix it on their own is making false promises.”
She also said London’s bridges should be run by an independent organisation rather than by councils.
The Green Party’s Sian Berry is thought to be in fourth place and with six per cent of the vote. Ms Berry was approached for comment but could not respond in time.
The ITV and ComRes poll, released on 21 April, put Sadiq Khan as the current favourite out of 20 mayoral candidates, with 41 per cent. Shaun Bailey had 28 per cent, while Luisa Porritt had eight per cent.
The mayoral and London Assembly election will be held on 6 May.
The full list of candidates standing to be Mayor of London, in the order they will appear on the ballot, is as follows:
Shaun Bailey – Conservative Party
Kam Balayev – Renew
Sian Berry – Green Party
Count Binface – Count Binface for Mayor of London
Piers Corbyn – Let London Live
Max Fosh – Independent
Laurence Fox – The Reclaim Party
Peter Gammons – UKIP
Richard Hewison – Rejoin EU
Vanessa Hudson – Animal Welfare Party – People, Animals, Environment
Steve Kelleher – Social Democratic Party
Sadiq Khan – Labour Party
David Kurten – Heritage Party
Farah London – Independent
Valerie Brown – The Burning Pink Party
Nims Obunge – Independent
Niko Omilana – Independent
Luisa Porritt – Liberal Democrats
Mandu Reid – Women’s Equality Party
Brian Rose – London Real Party
Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter
April 24, 2021