Black and white photo of a horse and cart crossing Hammersmith Bridge

Work begins to repair Hammersmith Bridge

news Transport and roads

A horse and cart with passengers crossing Hammersmith Bridge during the Victorian era

Following detailed investigation by a team of world-leading specialist engineers, Transport for London and Hammersmith & Fulham Council have agreed the works needed to repair Hammersmith Bridge.

The first stage of the work has now begun – and TfL has provided £25million to pay for it.

TfL and H&F Council are continuing to explore the most appropriate funding for the next phase of construction, ahead of the planned award of a contract for the next stage of the works next spring. The work is expected to take approximately three years.

“Hammersmith Bridge is not only a beautiful example of innovative 19th-century British engineering, it’s also a vital 21st-century river-crossing,” said Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. “It can be made fit for purpose for generations to come. That’s what we’re doing and we’re focussed on getting the bridge reopened to cars and buses as quickly as possible.”

“This comprehensive structural review was the first in decades. It has revealed corrosion and significant failings throughout the 132-year-old suspension structure that, had they been allowed to continue unchecked, would have been a threat to public safety.

“I am grateful to Transport for London and the Mayor of London for their help with designing this scheme, and for working closely with us to get the bridge fully and quickly restored.

“I’m also grateful to Cllr Gareth Roberts, the Leader of Richmond Council, and his team, for their constructive approach to getting the bridge re-opened as quickly as possible. Working together we are doing everything we can for local residents and businesses on both sides of the river to minimise disruption.”

Iconic bridge

Early stage estimates indicate the work could cost £120m, although as this is purely early estimates it includes a contingency due to the unknowns, complexities and challenges inherent in repairing such an aged, Historic England listed structure. Engineers will continue to refine this estimate as the project progresses. TfL and H&F Council are continuing to explore the most appropriate funding route for the main construction.

Garry Sterritt, TfL’s Head of Asset Investment, said: “This bridge is not only a historic and iconic structure in west London, but an important transport link - connecting people across the river and supporting local economies. We’re committed to supporting the next stages of the project, and will work with Hammersmith & Fulham Council to identify the best way to pay for the later stages of the refurbishment.”

Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, added: “We now know that Hammersmith Bridge needs serious restoration work following many years of heavy traffic usage. And I am pleased that Hammersmith & Fulham Council and TfL have found a way forward in funding part of the repair work. Over 2,000 local people and businesses from Richmond upon Thames told us in a recent survey that they are keen for the bridge to be repaired and reopened as soon as possible and whilst people will have to bear with the situation for a little while longer, the works will ensure that the bridge is future-proofed for many more decades.

“We will continue to ensure that local people are updated regularly on the work, including the continued commitment from TfL to reviewing the local transport network, to ensuring that any impacts on our borough is mitigated.”

Repair plan agreed

Once completed, the refurbishment will enable cars and buses (including the heavier electric single-deckers) to cross the bridge. But to prevent future damage, TfL will continue to limit the flow of buses on and off the bridge.

The ‘State of the City Report’ produced by London Councils and the London Technical Advisers Group, shows that the condition of highway assets in London is declining.

Keeping local authority infrastructure, such as Hammersmith Bridge in good condition is essential to reducing congestion. This ensures the wider road network keeps moving safely and productively, efficiently connecting people and communities to goods and services. However, without the certainty of steady, sustained and long-term funding to allow London to cover the cost of all of its own infrastructure maintenance, weight and traffic restrictions could be required in other locations until sustained funding can be found.

Why was the bridge closed?

In April, several hairline micro-fractures were discovered in the cast iron casing around the pedestals that have held the suspension chains in place since 1887.

They were only discovered because of the comprehensive structural integrity review and on-going safety checks commissioned by H&F Council in 2015.

Cast iron can shatter – one reason why this is the only bridge of its kind in the world – so the micro-fractures were a huge worry. The council immediately closed the bridge for safety reasons.

Victorian splendour

Hammersmith Bridge has been closed while undergoing a complete refurbishment.

Watch our video about restoring Hammersmith Bridge to its Victorian splendour.

Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, answered questions from passing cyclist David Maxwell-Scott about the future of the bridge.

Our plans for Hammersmith Bridge - a two-minute animation summarising the reasons for this closure and what we are doing to repair the bridge.

Hospital Trust refutes doctor’s bridge claim

Letter to residents from the Leader of the Council (pdf 649KB)

Residents’ needs on both sides of Hammersmith Bridge are the priority

Here are some facts that will explain what's happened with the 132-year-old suspension bridge and why these works are necessary and the most comprehensive ever undertaken.

Frequently asked questions

  • What's so special about Hammersmith Bridge?

    Hammersmith Bridge was the first suspension bridge built over the Thames. Designed by the noted 19th century civil engineer, Sir Joseph Bazalgette, it was built in 1887.

    Hole in Hammersmith Bridge structure following the 1996 Provisional IRA bomb attack
    Damage to Hammersmith Bridge following the Provisional IRA bomb attack in 1996

    Opened by the Prince of Wales in June 1887, Hammersmith Bridge is a complex feat of Victorian engineering built using a combination of cast iron, wrought iron and 999 individual wooden plates. It features structural copulas and seven crests. It's also London’s lowest bridge, with a water clearance of just 12 feet at high tide, and one of the capital’s weakest bridges, which is why weight restrictions have been in place since 2015.

    The original cost to build the bridge was £82,117. That is equivalent to £10.6 million today.

    Hammersmith Bridge has been bombed three times - by the IRA in 1939, by the Provisional IRA in 1996, and by the Real IRA in 2000.

    The bridge is one of London’s most iconic structures and features in many films.

    Video: Hammersmith Bridge in the 1970s

    Archive footage of Hammersmith Bridge with an unfamiliar paint colour and significantly less traffic. Video courtesy of British Pathe.

  • Who is responsible for the bridge?

    The bridge belongs to Hammersmith & Fulham Council (H&F Council), but it is also a vital part of London’s strategic transport system which is why Transport for London (TfL) has been project managing the restoration of the bridge since 2015.

    TfL have already committed £25 million and are actively working to fund the rest of the required funding to get the bridge back up and running.

    H&F Council and TfL have been working closely together on the major refurbishment of Hammersmith Bridge.

  • Why is the bridge closed?

    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 – the other spans the Danube in Budapest.

    Sensors attached to Hammersmith Bridge for monitoring
    Stress monitoring sensors attached to Hammersmith Bridge

    In 2015, the council began the first series of thorough reviews in the bridge’s recent history. The scope was to check all aspects of the bridge’s structure. These new, weekly safety checks, included using new sensor technology to assess if the stresses being imposed on the bridge were causing structural damage.

    The safety checks revealed that over decades the bridge’s bearings had seized up due to corrosion. This has caused the bridge’s natural and necessary flexibility to become compromised. The bridge was closed to motor vehicles in April after our engineers discovered hairline micro-fractures had started to appear in the iron casings around the pedestals of the bridge.

    Below are images of these new micro-fractures in both pedestals:

    Cracks in the pedestals under Hammersmith Bridge
    Micro-factures in the north west and south west pedestals under Hammersmith Bridge

    Architectural drawing of the north west pedestal illustrating the location of the micro-fractures
    Architectural drawing of the north west pedestal illustrating the location of the micro-fractures
  • Who uses the bridge?

    The bridge is a main artery connecting the north and south sides of the Thames and a vital river crossing for residents in neighbouring boroughs on both sides of the Thames, and for London as a whole.

    The bridge was built for horses, carts and penny farthings. Until 2015, when the council limited the number of buses, the bridge was used by 22,000 cars and 1,800 buses every day.

  • When will it reopen?

    Structural scan of Hammersmith Bridge
    Scan of the Hammersmith Bridge structure

    Clearly safety comes first. Closing the bridge was the right thing to do. Hammersmith & Fulham Council and Transport for London are committed to re-opening the bridge and restore it to its former Victorian splendour as soon as possible. It is a complex and highly-skilled job. It is also Grade II Listed, which makes its restoration even more complex.

    TfL and H&F Council are continuing to explore the most appropriate funding for the next phase of construction, ahead of the planned award of a contract for the next stage of the works next spring. The work is expected to take approximately three years.

  • Will the bridge look the same once it's reopened?

    The bridge will be fully restored to its former glory and, once restored, will look better than it does today.

    As well as repairing its structural issues, its road surface will be renovated to ensure the surface is smooth and fit for purpose. In addition, the original electric lights will be replaced with LED light bulbs. Although the LED light bulbs will look the same they will cut energy use by 50 per cent.

  • Who will pay for it?

    Residents of Hammersmith & Fulham will NOT be paying for the repair of the bridge. They pay enough already and this bridge is used by, and belongs to, all Londoners.

    Hammersmith & Fulham Council is working with TfL to submit a bid to the government to fully fund the restoration of one of the capital’s most iconic river crossings. 

  • Some have suggested the repair of the bridge could be paid for using tolls - is this true?

    We’re not ruling out the use of tolls on the bridge by drivers passing through, but residents of Hammersmith & Fulham wouldn't be asked to pay a penny to use the bridge.

  • What short-term options are there for ensuring vulnerable residents can still cross the Thames between Barnes and Hammersmith?

    TfL has reorganised buses in the area to ensure that residents still have a well-connected public transport network while the bridge remains closed.

    It will also enhance its Dial-a-Ride services to provide another option for people with impaired mobility whose journeys might have been affected by the closure.

    TfL has changed traffic signals in the area to reduce the impact of the closure, and will continue to monitor how traffic responds.

    TfL has added a series of alternative bus routes for Hammersmith Bridge

  • What about access for emergency vehicles?

    There have been emergency service contingency plans in place long before the bridge was closed. Hammersmith & Fulham Council is in regular dialogue with all emergency service providers. 

  • The bridge has been closed before, so how can we be sure it won't happen again?

    The more comprehensive the investigations are at this stage, the more enduring the long-term solutions will be, which is why the investigations most be carried out thoroughly.

    As well as restoring the bridge to its full working order, Hammersmith & Fulham Council is also exploring additional, sustainable and ambitious solutions to west London’s traffic in the 21st century.

    Video: Maintenance work with a giant spanner

    Footage showing engineers using a giant spanner to remove a bolt from Hammersmith Bridge.

Traffic diversions

Pedestrians and cyclists will still be able to cross.

Diversions are in place for motorists and the bus routes which use the bridge - find out more about Hammersmith Bridge diversions on the TfL website.

View a map showing where to catch your bus (pdf 180KB) now Hammersmith Bridge is closed.

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