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

Surface Water Engineer

Essex County Council
£30001.0 - £35350 per annum
At Essex County Council, we're passionate about helping deliver economic growth, the best starts in life and the chance to age well for people in the England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Highways Operations Manager

Swindon Borough Council
Salary up to £41,494 p.a.
In this key role, you will plan, organise, co-ordinate and control the workforce Swindon, Wiltshire
Recuriter: Swindon Borough Council

Senior Engineer (Highways Maintenance Design)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£22,462 - £29,636
Are you looking for an opportunity to work as a Senior Engineer, whilst still being able to develop your career and have a good work-life balance? Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Highways Projects Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£33,153 - £35,755
Looking for strong team players interested in working with a variety of professional and community partners across Cambridgeshire and... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Senior Heating Engineer

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
Up to £48,692 per annum
Looking for a Senior Heating Engineer who will work as part of one of the small professional teams. London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Senior Traffic Management and Parking Engineer

North Yorkshire County Council
£34,788 to £42,683
Are your skills and experiences suited to a traffic and parking engineer position? Is project work something you enjoy doing? Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: North Yorkshire County Council

Lead Practitioner (Infrastructure)

Newark & Sherwood District Council
£33,799 to £35,934 per annum
Newark and Sherwood is looking to recruit to its newly created post of Lead Practitioner for Infrastructure. Newark, Nottinghamshire
Recuriter: Newark & Sherwood District Council

Senior Parking Manager

Brent Council
£55,638 - £58,779 p.a. inc.
As Senior Parking Manager, you will be responsible for the effective management of the Council’s Parking Services contract Brentford (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Highways Inspector

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

School Crossing Patrol

Brent Council
£21,591 - £22,377 p.a. inc. pro rata. (£11.50 per hour)
A school crossing patrol officer is responsible for assisting children to cross the road safely on their way to and from school. Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Assistant Director - Environment

Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council
£82k per annum
Our Assistant Director – Environment will ensure clean, safe and attractive communities. Redcar, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council

Traffic Engineering Team Leader

Telford & Wrekin Council
£39,782 - £42,683
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Network Management Team Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Street Lighting Client Officer

Enfield London Borough Council
£37,842 – £40,728
As a Street Lighting Client Officer, you will assist the Streetlighting Client Manager in managing the Council’s Street lighting Service Provider Enfield (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Enfield London Borough Council

Pest Control Officer

Brent Council
£26,745 - £28,725 p.a. inc.
Brent Council's Pest Control and Hygiene service continues to see a growing demand in its pest control services. Brentford (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

PCN Appeals Officer

Brent Council
£26,745 - £30,711 p.a. inc.
We are looking for an experienced parking professional to join the Notice Processing Team Brentford (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Citizen & Consumer Protection Team Manager - Trading Standards

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
Band H, SCP 38-43 (£40,760 - £45,591 per annum) (£21.13 - £23.63 per hour)
We have an exciting opportunity to recruit to the position of Citizen & Consumer Protection Team Manager Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Key Route Network Manager

Liverpool City Region
£63,753 - £71,747
An exciting new opportunity has arisen within the Integrated Transport Directorate of the LCR Combined Authority Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Region

Assistant Director

Hammersmith & Fulham London Borough Council
£92,826 - £111,231
This is an ideal opportunity for an expert waste management professional to make a real impact and to lead the service to outstanding. Fulham, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Hammersmith & Fulham London Borough Council

Partnership Director (Fixed Term for 2 years)

£79,165 - £83,020
An exciting opportunity has arisen for the post of Partnership Director for the Tayside & Central Scotland Transport Partnership (Tactran). Perth, Perth and Kinross
Recuriter: Tactran

Service Director Planning, Transportation and Highways

Wakefield Council
To lead on behalf of the Council on all planning, transportation and highways matters Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Wakefield Council