Statement on new Hammersmith Bridge taskforce
9 September 2020
A statement from H&F Council Leader, Cllr Stephen Cowan, on the much-needed repairs to Hammersmith Bridge.
"Our engineers have worked around the clock to develop shovel-ready plans to make Hammersmith Bridge safe and fully restore it. We therefore welcome the government’s announcement today as a signal that they now intend to engage constructively with us on this matter, and we hope they will now work with our cross-party team to prioritise the needs of residents on both sides of the river.
"There is an urgency to tackling this issue, so while Transport for London (TfL), Hammersmith & Fulham and Richmond councils will play a full part in the government’s taskforce, we must avoid an empty talking shop. Only the government has the financial resources to fix this bridge. Ministers must urgently commit to funding the necessary repairs."
- Letter to residents from Cllr Stephen Cowan about the full bridge closure (10 September 2020) (pdf 655KB)
- Temporary ferry service under urgent consideration following closure of Hammersmith Bridge (18 September 2020)
Hammersmith & Fulham Leader Cllr Stephen Cowan has pledged that the council will do all in its power to enable a temporary ferry across the Thames near Hammersmith Bridge.
- TfL introduce extra buses after closure of Hammersmith Bridge (29 August 2020)
Transport for London (TfL) has introduced extra services on route 533 (Hammersmith Bus Station to Castlenau, Lonsdale Road) and route 378 (Mortlake Bus Station to Putney Bridge Station). There are also minor changes to a number of other bus routes.
- Letter to the Prime Minister from Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of H&F Council and Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of the London Borough of Richmond (24 August 2020) (pdf 616KB)
- BBC Radio London interview with Cllr Stephen Cowan about the full bridge closure (20 August 2020)
- Hammersmith Bridge FULLY closed due to urgent safety concerns (13 August 2020)
Hammersmith Bridge is closed to pedestrians and river traffic because of an increased risk to public safety due to a sudden deterioration in key parts of the suspension structure.
More about the bridge
- See images of the Hammersmith Bridge works on our Flickr photo gallery
- New temporary bridge for cyclists and pedestrians across Thames (9 March 2020)
- Update on repairs - letter to residents and businesses (25 November 2019) (pdf 176KB)
- Letter to residents from the Leader of the council (28 October 2019) (pdf 637KB)
- Hospital Trust refutes doctor’s bridge claim
- Letter to residents from the Leader of the council (July 2019) (pdf 649KB)
- Residents’ needs on both sides of Hammersmith Bridge are the priority
- Hammersmith Bridge videos
Video footage from a north facing CCTV camera on Hammersmith Bridge taken between 22 November and 20 December 2019
Our plans for Hammersmith Bridge - a two-minute animation summarising the reasons for this closure and what we are doing to repair the bridge
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
Frequently asked questions
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.
- What about building a temporary replacement road bridge?
We’ve looked in detail, with the benefit of access to detailed engineering reports, at building a new road bridge alongside Hammersmith Bridge. The expert advice is that this proposal is not feasible in the space available and at an affordable cost. We are therefore not pursuing this option. Work is already underway for the complete refurbishment of Hammersmith Bridge to reopen it to cars and buses as soon as possible.
- 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.
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.
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:
- 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?
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 restoring 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 must 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.
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.