Public meeting with Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce

The public meeting with the Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce was held this evening, With Charlotte Vere in the chair and contributions from TfL, LBHF, LBRuT, the Port of London and others. It was attended by 1,000 people via Zoom.

The meeting was recorded and can be seen at the bottom of this page.

A brief history of the closure of the bridge, and the reasons for it, was followed by the plan of action by the Taskforce. The priority (apart from ensuring public safety) is to reopen the bridge to pedestrians and people on bikes - but this won't be for at least 7 months.

In the meantime, the proposed ferry is still seen as the best option. There was some uncertainty over who will be paying for this, including an implication that LBHF and LBRuT should fund a pier each - almost hilarious in its childishness.

Gloriously, it was announced that the proposed timeline means that the bridge will not open to motor traffic for 6½ years.

There were questions from the public:

Q. When will the bridge open to pedestrians and cyclists?
A. After the various examinations that need to be finished, stabilisation work can start. It will be at least seven months before the bridge can be opened to pedestrians and cyclists.

Q. Funding, and why the government doesn't step in
A. It went a bit party political here, with some argument between Baroness Vere and Heidi Alexander. Baroness Vere says that they are waiting for LBHF to come up with a proposal and apply for funding, before any funding can be approved. (But haven't we all seen various Tories being wheeled out in front of the camera and claiming that the funding is in place?)

Q. Ferry service
A. The Taskforce has committed to a public procurement procress which should take 66 days. Some disagreement over who will fund the piers. LBHF is unwilling to, because they are already spending a lot of money on the work on the bridge.

Q. Can a temporary bridge for motors be provided?
A. Firstly, a temporary biking/walking bridge is probably not needed, if the work on the bridge goes ahead as planned, because bicycles and people on foot will then be able to cross. as for a bridge for cars, it's technically possible, but it's not going to happen - it would be far too disruptive. (On a side note, notice that no-one wants traffic around them.)

Q. River traffic, and how soon can it pass under the bridge?
A. It's already possible to schedule controlled movements, e.g. if the boat needs to go to dry dock.

Q. Safety of school children in the dark months ahead.
A. LBRuT are making good the towpath surface, and have hired security guards, and are looking at installing lighting - though this last may be hampered by the presence of bats.

Q. What measures are being taken to relieve traffic pressure on neighbouring bridges?
A. Heidi Alexander said that TfL have reviewed the timing of hundreds of sets of traffic lights, and have 24 hour monitoring, to try to relieve pressure. The 533 bus has been increased to five per hour and they are in talks with the operating company to get more vehicles. Double deckers are not feasible because of the height of the arch at Barnes Bridge.

That concluded the questions. In closing remarks, it was said that once the funding has been arranged, the first phase (stabilisation of the bridge) can be carried out, at which point people will be able to cross once more.

Baroness Vere once more said that the Government are waiting for LBHF to come up with their proposal, and then the meeting closed.

One of the most obvious points to make is that even though Shaun Bailey, Grant Shapps and even Boris Johnson have claimed that the funding is available to fix the bridge, this is absolutely not true. Baroness Vere kept blaming LBHF for not submitting a plan and claiming funding.

It just goes to show what a political football the bridge has become, while thousands of people who would dearly love to cross the bridge on foot or on bicycles are frustrated.

But it's good to know that it will be over six years before cars are allowed over it again (if they ever are).

And here is the recording of the meeting:

Here are the slides from the meeting (PDF)

Posted on 28th October 2020

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