Hammersmith Bridge – a fork in the road?


Hammersmith Bridge has been closed to motor vehicles since April and is likely to be shut to heavy traffic for several more years. Safety checks revealed the bearings had seized up due to corrosion, and hairline micro-fractures had appeared in the iron casings around the pedestals of the bridge.

Put simply, the Victorian Grade II structure was designed for horses and carts not 22,000 cars and 1,800 buses every day.


Hammersmith and Fulham Council has employed a team of specialist engineers to inspect and report on the full extent of the repair work needed. They are due to complete a full diagnosis by mid-August. The council is also monitoring the effect of the bridge’s closure across the borough.

This problem immediately presents at least two solutions, in the same way equations often have more than one solution. Possible solutions include strengthening it or using this tool – the bridge – differently.

A living lab

Let us look carefully at the repercussions of this second option.

We are in the middle of what is known technically as a living laboratory. Its closure is having immediate repercussions on the surrounding region that can be studied in detail.

I therefore propose that we think carefully about what we already know and what we can measure while the disruption caused by the closure is there.

A good tool for this type of exercise is something called Future Search, simply: to ask where are we from, where are we now, and where do we wish to be.

The next step is to ask what precisely are we studying.

Are we clear about the possible range of future scenarios? What have other people elsewhere with similar issues done? Are there solutions we have forgotten that with tweaking and modernising would work?

Might we have cut out possible solutions because we have framed the problem too narrowly?

As the old joke goes: 'How do I get to....?' 

'Well, firstly I wouldn’t start from here.'

I would wish to ask a few key questions, what are the purposes of the streets, transport systems, water and land there? Do they really need to be doing what they are currently? 

New logistics 

The importance of one real future scenario has not been recognised widely because it has been looked at in isolation and it has been framed strangely.


This is about taking e-cargo cycle logistics seriously, and joining them up with open source warehousing that is supplied not only by road but also probably primarily by rail and water. This causes a direct knock-on effect for rail, but this is one I think rail needs to tackle head on - on the issue of common carriage.

Rail is incredibly efficient, but there seem to be a series of self-imposed barriers in its thinking that mean it is not as efficient as it might be. Are there spare paths at night? Are there empty passenger carriages at night?

OK, convert some carriages to carry light goods when and where they are not carrying passengers. This has further knock-on effects because the logistics of loading and unloading light goods are similar – not identical – to issues of social inclusion and with good thoughtful design could be multi-purpose.

This immediately brings in different sources of funding to issues of inclusion. What are the effects of doing this? It reduces the need to use vans to deliver stuff, therefore wear and tear and congestion on roads (and bridges).

There is a second step, which could be taken in parallel. 

Use the experience of places like the Netherlands - as has been replicated in local areas like Waltham Forest - of enabling living neighbourhoods, firstly by simple measures like filtered permeability and using 'no entry except cycling' rules. Then carefully roll these ideas out across the region around Hammersmith Bridge.

So what do we want to do, keep the status quo or make a huge difference across a region?

We have the opportunity to explore this proposal in detail. Hammersmith Bridge will be closed to heavy traffic for a considerable period.

Let us seriously explore if it really need to be reopened to heavy traffic. Possibly we should respect its original purpose. The engineer who built it, Bazelguette, knew how to build very heavy stuff. He decided not to. Maybe he was correct.

Clive is now retired and is the former chair of a co-operative housing association and director of a disabled persons organisation. His career has been in social work, housing and planning. He received a distinction for a dissertation on ecosystems shelter and society.

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus
highways jobs

Air Quality Monitoring Project Manager

Birmingham City Council
£34,788 - £42,683
Seeking a skilled and dedicated individual with a background in environmental protection and air quality to... Birmingham, West Midlands
Recuriter: Birmingham City Council

Roadworks Inspector

Transport for London
£32,500 plus substantial benefits
You’ll review thousands of roadworks reports sent by other operational TfL staff and the Met Police andñ... Southwark, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Transport for London

Head of Planning Policy, Transport & Infrastructure Planning

Berwick Partners
Competitive Salary
This is a senior position within Be First’s Planning & Building Control Team, and you will... London (Greater)
Recuriter: Berwick Partners

Transportation Engineer

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£29,636 - £33,799 per annum
Applicants should hold an appropriate qualification, preferably to degree level, and have knowledge of transportation issues. Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Trading Standards Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£36,630 - £42,490 per annum
Seeking to recruit highly motivated and experienced Trading Standards Officer’s to join our busy Business and Consumer Services team. Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Nature Conservation Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£36,630 - £42,490
Exciting opportunity now exists for a dynamic nature conservation professional, to be the lead officer for the Council in all matters relating to Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Environmental Health Officer/Enforcement

Brent Council
£35,724 - £41,706 p.a. inc.
Looking to recruit an Environmental Health Officer / Enforcement Officer preferably with experience of... Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Surface Water Engineer (Maternity Cover)

Essex County Council
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Excellent Benefits Package
The Surface Water Engineer contributes to the development and implementation of strategic plans, policy and best practice to improve the Council's knowledge and understanding of surface water flood risk and methods of management. England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Highways Project Engineer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£32,878 - 35,934 per annum
Exciting opportunity to provide technical highway input into all stages of development, within the... Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Highway Maintenance Senior Professional and Technical Officer - Level 1

Bristol City Council
£27,905 - £31,371
The job involves project managing and assisting senior colleagues with coordinating tasks and projects, using appropriate techniques to ensure.... City of Bristol
Recuriter: Bristol City Council

Highways Inspector

Hackney London Borough Council
£28,752 - £32,577
Seeking an experienced Highways Inspector to join the Highways Team. London (Greater)
Recuriter: Hackney London Borough Council

Street Lighting Technical Administrator

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£25,327 - £33,554 depending on skills
Are you looking for working arrangements that enhance your work-life balance? London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Environmental Protection Officer

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£24,313 - £28,785 per annum
Looking to recruit officers to further strengthen our pool of Environmental Protection Officers who are responsible for... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Citizen & Consumer Protection Officer – Environmental Health x2

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£29,636 - £33,799 per annum
Looking for a suitably qualified and competent Environmental Health Officer or Food Safety / Health and Safety Officer registered with the... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Senior Pest Control Officer (Commercial)

Brent Council
£33,291 - £35,724 p.a. inc.
Looking for a pest control officer that bring additional expertise to the team and support the manager in developing and supporting our clients. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Project Officer

Westminster City Council
£33,759 - £37,413 per annum
This is an exciting opportunity to support the CRP team in developing and delivering their projects. City of Westminster, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Westminster City Council

Strategic Planning and Growth Manager

Trafford Council
£46,572 – £49,529 per annum
As the Strategic Planning and Growth Manager, you will be responsible for... Trafford, Greater Manchester
Recuriter: Trafford Council

Quality & Performance Monitoring Officer

East Lindsey District Council
£26,999 - £31,371 per annum (Grade 6)
An exciting opportunity has arisen to cover a one year period of maternity leave for the role of Quality & Performance Monitoring Officer Louth, Lincolnshire
Recuriter: East Lindsey District Council

Service Director – Environment

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
Up to £100,000
ur new Service Director - Environment will have responsibility for all front-line environmental services, as well as licensing... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Environmental Health Officers

Camden London Borough Council
£32,473 - £42,490
Seeking Environmental Health Officers to contribute towards delivering the project objectives of addressing rogue... Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council