A temporary double-decker bridge could allow the Hammersmith Bridge to reopen next summer, initially to pedestrians and cyclists, with motorists following a few months later, Hammersmith and Fulham council has announced.

(c) Foster + Partners

However, it would also become a toll bridge, with early assessments indicating that motorists might pay an average of £3 to drive across the bridge.

The Grade II* listed bridge was closed on safety grounds on 13 August 2020 after cracks in the cast iron pedestals widened during a heatwave. Since then, apart from the engineering tasks of working out how to repair it, there’s been a very heated political debate about who and how will pay for the repairs, which are estimated to cost around £140 million.

TfL is currently looking at a temporary replacement ferry that would carry pedestrians and maybe cyclists, but with the bridge closed to motorists, a long term solution is needed.

The idea of a double-decker structure being slotted into the existing bridge was announced last November, and since then, Foster + Partners, and bridge engineers COWI have been working on verifying that the proposal is viable.

The main concern was whether the existing bridge foundations could support the inserted bridge, and it’s now been announced that they can.

As well as delivering vehicle access earlier than the current restoration plan, the proposal has been initially costed at around £100m – offering a potential saving of approximately £40m.

The double-decker scheme would involve launching a truss structure above the existing road deck with a lower level for pedestrians and cyclists and an upper level for cars and buses. If it goes ahead, then Hammersmith Bridge could potentially reopen for pedestrians and cyclists next summer, and motor vehicles a couple of months later.

(c) Foster + Partners

While the double-decker insert is in place, elements of the bridge that need repair, including the decking, would be lifted away using the temporary bridge as a works platform and transported by barges to an off-site facility for safe repair and restoration.

According to the feasibility report, provided planning and procurement is in place by the end of this year, the bridge could reopen for pedestrians and cyclists by the summer of 2022 and motor vehicles two months later, four years sooner than the current plan. The full restoration could be completed in 2023.

The aim is to eventually then remove the double-decker insert, returning the bridge back to its conventional state.

The council is also looking at transferring ownership of the bridge into a charitable trust, with the income from the toll crossing funding its maintenance in the long term. The Government has been asked to fund the costs of the borrowing, stabilisation and any other upfront costs in the period prior to the road charging taking effect.

The findings of the feasibility study will be discussed at next week’s meeting of the Government’s Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce.

The council has not ruled out other options, such as the temporary ferry at the moment.

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15 comments
  1. ChrisC says:

    I’m always wary when there are “potential” savings on a construction project because they rarely materialise and the end cost is the same as the original cost PLUS the “savings”

    And £6 a day toll is unlikely to wash and will just displace traffic elsewhere to try and avoid it.

    • Jacob says:

      Given the fact that Chiswick and Putney bridges are far more convenient for people crossing the river from further-away destinations, the only people who ‘rely’ on Hammersmith Bridge are the residents of Barnes. And seeing as it is one of the most privileged/wealthiest neighbourhoods of the entire UK let alone London, £3 is throwaway change to them, I’m sure they won’t have an issue paying £3 to drive their 71-plate Land Rovers and Jags over the direct bridge and avoid the detour.

      Of course, if they don’t want to pay a toll, nor detour, then perhaps they and their Borough Council should just pay for the bridge repair as they should, adding a Council Tax surcharge if need be, instead of demanding that the cost be covered by residents of other London boroughs who have 0 need or use for this crossing, or even (more hilariously) by the entire UK through National Government funding.

  2. Melvyn says:

    Time to accept the bridge is past its useful life and needs replacement with a brand new bridge .

    As for a toll to cross temporary bridge well shame the WEZ didn’t remain in place as it could have funded these works but road users seem to expect a free ride !

  3. Maurice Reed says:

    If the bridge can no longer take the weight of vehicles then how is it supposed to take the weight of this additional structure?

    • De says:

      Support provided on each side of the river bank and not supported by any part of the existing bridge.

    • Betterbee says:

      It looks to me as if the weight of temporary bridge will be borne by the existing piers rather than by the existing deck. An unsupported arch from bank to bank would be a significant structure!

  4. Sue says:

    My fear is that central government will not assist financially in an appropriate way, and that local council, having been left to their own dwindling resources, will not be able to properly fund the most suitable repair.

  5. Guy says:

    @Jacob: your comment reveals more about you than any thoughtful, helpful insights …either you are being deliberately provocative or you have little regard for the facts, zero empathy for the 16,000+ people (not just Barnes residents) and 22,000+ motorists that used to cross the bridge daily, and a rather large chip on your shoulder.

    • tony mansell says:

      Yes agree with you about @Jacob. Total nonsense, yes Barnes has wealthy residents, like most areas of London. Theres also a lot of council housing there and Mortlake, Sheen also use that bridge and as any other part of London, its a thru route from far and wide. yes there are alterantive routes but Hammersmith is a major hub and a lot of people used the buses

    • JP says:

      Presumably disgruntled above hasn’t considered collective responsibility. That’s how we pay for motorways, pipeline infrastructure and, well, the BBC.
      There’s a rather extreme example of individuals paying for the greater good at this very moment in the measures taken to combat the virus.

  6. Rick says:

    Even with reduced traffic levels arising from Covid lockdowns there is significant congestion on all the alternative routes. Hammersmith Bridge is a strategic link and not just a local facility. Having it closed to all including pedestrians has been a major obstacle in the daily lives of many people. The “bridge replacement” bus is not free and already costs £3.10 for a round trip unless you are entitled to free travel. However a toll bridge when others remain free may well not bring users back. Why is the Woolwich Ferry free? And all other Thames crossings within the TfL region? Keep it free or you will keep the congestion elsewhere.

  7. De says:

    What’s happening with the temporary bridge thereafter the permanent bridge has been restored?

  8. Ramon Prasad says:

    We do not need to repair this bridge. It has come to the end of it’s natural lifespan. Get the metal cutters out, cut it down in sections, and recycle into metal recycling.

    As Hammersmith and Fulham, don’t want to actually take any responsibility for anything, get a counsellor (psychiatric) in to hold their hand while they are told what their statutory responsibilities are.

    If they were up to anything they would commission a new bridge and build it without whining and asking for handouts.

  9. whalley ranger says:

    Hammersmith Bridge is used far and wide. It is convenient for many in large parts of SW London and NE Surrey due to its proximity to the A3 in Roehampton.

    It is an essential part of London transport infrastructure and a key North/South road route. As such, I do not either understand or support its upkeep or management being left to a charitable trust. This is simply TFL and London Mayor delegating responsibility.

    There is no case for making this a toll bridge on the basis of it being situated in a wealthy suburb. You either have a London-wide transport strategy that is managed in a unitary fashion or you don’t.

    • ianVisits says:

      You might want to research the issue before commenting – the bridge is owned by the council, and is nothing to do with either the Mayor or TfL. They’ve been pulled into the issue by the Department for Transport to provide the temporary ferry only.

      It is the council proposing the charity status.

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