A transport minister has warned Transport for London (TfL) and the local council not to expect special treatment over its bid for cash to re-open Hammersmith Bridge.
The bridge (pictured) has been closed to motorised traffic for nearly a year after safety checks revealed critical faults.
In a parliamentary debate on Tuesday (3 March) Hammersmith MP Andy Slaughter said it could cost at least £120m on current estimates to re-open the bridge to at least its previous capacity to cover single-decker electric buses, as well as similar weights of general vehicle traffic as previously.
He noted that TfL has already contributed £25m towards restoring the bridge and invited transport minister Kelly Tolhurst to provide ‘some encouraging noises…even if she has not brought the cheque with her’.
Referring to a bid by TfL and Hammersmith and Fulham Council under the Large Local Majors (LLM) scheme, Mr Slaughter said: ‘We have to look to Government when major strategic assets fail. That is the case in most of the rest of the country.’
Ms Tolhurst, standing in for roads minister Baroness Vere, replied: ‘The Government support the efforts to repair Hammersmith bridge and bring it back into operation in a cost-effective and speedy manner. However, we must recognise that it is for the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, as the owner of the bridge, to assess the merits of different funding options for its repair.
‘Local highways authorities such as Hammersmith and Fulham Council have a duty under section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the highways network in their area.’
She added: ‘We have received the proposal from TfL for the repair works, and that is being considered. Baroness Vere welcomes the opportunity to work with honourable members and the council to try to find a way of bringing Hammersmith bridge back into use for the benefit of everybody.’
A spokesperson for TfL said the full cost of restoring the bridge has not yet been calculated but acknowledged that the fact that it has applied for LLM funding means that it is seeking at least £50m from central government.
TfL said it needs additional funding as central Government has removed its operational grant for day-to-day running costs.
The £25m it has committed towards the projected costs for the repair has funded early investigations, the initial feasibility, monitoring and concept design work, and it is expected to be sufficient to cover the cost of a temporary bridge for pedestrians and cyclists.
A temporary bridge is required to maintain access for the 16,000 people currently crossing the river on foot or by bike every day, TfL said, adding it would simplify and speed-up repairs to the main bridge.
David Rowe, TfL's head of major projects sponsorship, said: ‘Hammersmith Bridge is a strategically significant asset which, before it was restricted to pedestrians and cyclists only, carried 22,000 vehicles a day and 24,000 bus passengers.
‘Its closure to vehicles has caused significant congestion in the local area and on other bridges, as well as inconvenience to those using public transport. It is essential it is brought back into full use as soon as possible.
‘We have committed £25m to the restoration of the bridge and, with Hammersmith and Fulham Council, we have now submitted a bid to the Government for the additional funding required.’