Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of Hammersmith & Fulham, said:
“The suggestion that the bridge could be reopened to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic, with little money spent on safety measures, has been the Government’s consistent position in Taskforce meetings over past months. Our response has been to ask if they would take on the legal responsibility for such a decision, but they have consistently refused to do so.
“The bridge was closed because world-leading specialist engineers strongly advised the badly-corroded suspension structure faced catastrophic failure. If the bridge collapsed, as they advised it could, it would have been a national disaster.
“Our consistent advice to the government has been to listen to the specialist engineers on the Continued Case for Safe Operation (CCSO) board which constantly reviews such matters to protect public safety.
“The Government’s Taskforce met today at 11am. However, its members were only sent the papers which included first sight of the Fleck and Aecom reports at 10.23am today and after media reports appeared. It’s fair to say that a number of Taskforce members questioned the Government Taskforce’s Chair, Baroness Vere, about the professionalism of sending papers so late while spinning the story to the media well beforehand.
“During the Taskforce meeting, government advisers confirmed the government had released the Fleck and Aecom reports before waiting to consider the imminent conclusions of engineers Mott McDonald who are undertaking the latest review. Nor did they put their own papers to the CCSO. This appears to be subject to political interference – something that has consistently hindered progress.
“We learnt that the Fleck Report had been concluded on 6 November 2020, and that the Aecom paper was started on 30 September, completed on 26 November and issued on 4 December. No explanation was given as to why these reports were not shared with the CCSO or the Taskforce prior to today.
“Hammersmith & Fulham will continue to look at all possible means of safely having the bridge re-opened but will never take any decision that is against the specialist engineers’ advice that there is a serious risk to the lives of the tens of thousands of pedestrians, cyclists, motor vehicle drivers and river traffic that used or travelled under the bridge each week.”