Government launches task force to REOPEN Hammersmith Bridge after it closed to ...

A Government task force has been launched to reopen Hammersmith Bridge after it closed to motor traffic last year after faults were found in the ironworks.

The 133-year-old cast iron suspension bridge in west London was closed 'indefinitely' to motorists in April last year after 'critical faults' were detected.

The bridge further closed to pedestrians and cyclists last month after a heatwave were said to make the cracks 'significantly increase', causing fury among residents.

The new task force will be responsible for opening the bridge 'as speedily as possible', first reopening to cyclists and pedestrians at a 'minimum'. 

The news was announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who said there has been a 'lack of leadership' in the capital to fix Hammersmith Bridge. 

A Government task force has been launched to reopen Hammersmith Bridge as 'speedily as possible', Transport Secretary announced today (above)

A Government task force has been launched to reopen Hammersmith Bridge as 'speedily as possible', Transport Secretary announced today (above)

The 133-year-old suspension bridge in west London was closed 'indefinitely' to motorists in April last year after 'critical faults' were detected in the ironworks

The 133-year-old suspension bridge in west London was closed 'indefinitely' to motorists in April last year after 'critical faults' were detected in the ironworks

Residents gathered to protest after Hammersmith and Fulham Council announced that the bridge would be further closed to pedestrian and cyclists due to the heatwave

Residents gathered to protest after Hammersmith and Fulham Council announced that the bridge would be further closed to pedestrian and cyclists due to the heatwave

Mr Shapps said: 'There has been a lack of leadership in London on reopening this vital bridge.

'It's stopped Londoners moving about easily and caused huge inconvenience to everyone, adding extra time to their commute or journeys.

'We won't let hard working Londoners suffer any longer. The Government is setting up a task force to establish the next steps in opening the bridge as speedily as possible.

'We'll be decisive and quick to make sure we can take steps that'll be good for commuters, good for residents and good for business.'

The task force will be led by transport minister Baroness Vere and will initially try to reopen the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, before moving on to motor traffic.

It has been confirmed that the Department for Transport has commissioned its own engineering advice on the condition of the bridge. 

The Department will also continue to work with local groups and stakeholders, and consider all the options for a solution. 

This could include temporary measures that could be brought in to help with local traffic pressures.

The task force will be led by transport minister Baroness Vere and will initially try to reopen the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, before moving on to motor traffic

The task force will be led by transport minister Baroness Vere and will initially try to reopen the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, before moving on to motor traffic

The task force will be led by transport minister Baroness Vere and will initially try to reopen the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, before moving on to motor traffic

The Department of Transport could introduce temporary measures to help with local traffic pressures and will continue to work with local groups and stakeholders

The Department of Transport could introduce temporary measures to help with local traffic pressures and will continue to work with local groups and stakeholders

Micro-fractures were discovered in the structure in 2014 when the council leader commissioned a structural integrity review of all aspects of the bridge's suspension structure, which began in 2015.

WHAT IS THE TASK FORCE'S JOB?

The Government task force will be responsible for opening Hammersmith Bridge bridge 'as speedily as possible', Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.

The task force will be led by transport minister Baroness Vere and will initially try to reopen the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, before moving on to motor traffic. 

It has also been confirmed that the Department for Transport has commissioned its own engineering advice on the condition of the bridge.

The Department of Transport have said the situation needs to be resolved 'as soon as possible'. 

The Department will also continue to work with local groups and stakeholders, and consider all the options for a solution. 

This could include temporary measures that could be brought in to help with local traffic.  

 

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The bridge had originally remained open to pedestrians and cyclists but closed after Hammersmith and Fulham Council said the 34C heatwave had caused the cracks in the bridge to 'significantly increase' and widen. 

It lead the local authority, which owns the bridge, to close the crossing to all users and ban vessels from sailing underneath it on August 13.

The closure led to protests from residents who were furious at the lengthy journeys they were forced to take, rather than walking across the bridge.

There were also wide concerns that it would discourage people from cycling and walking, leading to further traffic build-ups on nearby roads. 

A statement from Hammersmith and Fulham Council said: 'Hammersmith Bridge is closed to pedestrians and river traffic from 5pm today (13 August) because of an increased risk to public safety due to a sudden deterioration in key parts of the suspension structure.       

'Specialist engineers have been undertaking 24/7 monitoring of the structural integrity of the bridge throughout using an extensive network of sensors on the 19th century structure. 

'The deterioration in the structure was exacerbated by the recent heatwave which caused cracks to significantly increase – despite measures taken to mitigate the heat.

'The bridge will remain closed until the engineers are confident that it is safe to re-open to pedestrians and river traffic.

'It means that pedestrians and cyclists must now cross the river elsewhere, while all river traffic under the bridge will also be stopped – including the pedestrian walkways under Hammersmith Bridge – while engineers examine the extent of the damage.'

The council wrote a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson later that month stating the estimated cost to make it safe and 'avoid a potential catastrophic failure' is £46million.

The council wrote a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson later that month stating the estimated cost to make it safe and 'avoid a potential catastrophic failure' is £46 million

The council wrote a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson later that month stating the estimated cost to make it safe and 'avoid a potential catastrophic failure' is £46 million

The letter said: 'No local authority has that kind of money available. We therefore write to ask that the Government funds this work as a matter of urgency.'

Upon closure in 2019, Hammersmith Bridge had been about to undergo a full refurbishment, which engineers estimated would cost £120million and take three years to complete.   

Transport for London then provided £25 million for preparatory repair work. 

The council said in February there had been 'good progress' on the refurbishments. 

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The latest news comes after months of arguments about who should pay for the bridge's repair bill, which has been estimated to cost more than £140 million.

Hammersmith Bridge, designed by civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette and opened in 1887, is made from cast iron and is one of two of its kind in the world. 

Why IS this a bridge too far? It says everything about modern Britain's paralysis: an iconic bridge across the Thames shut even to boats passing beneath it... because squabbling officials can't agree who should pay to fix it, writes ROBERT HARDMAN

Standing by the Thames, enjoying one of London's prettiest views, I can't help humming the tune from that children's classic, We're Going On A Bear Hunt. As the characters find their path blocked by a river, they all sing: 'We can't go over it, we can't go under it. Oh, no! We've got to go through it.'

And that, I am afraid, is the real-life situation here at Hammersmith. The grand old green and gold suspension bridge, familiar to millions of viewers of the annual Boat Race, is not merely closed off to traffic. 

It is closed to everyone and everything, following a major panic three weeks ago when the bridge's owner, the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, was suddenly informed that it might collapse at any minute.

Hammersmith bridge is closed to everyone and everything, following a major panic three weeks ago when the bridge’s owner, the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, was suddenly informed that it might collapse at any minute

Hammersmith bridge is closed to everyone and everything, following a major panic three weeks ago when the bridge's owner, the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham, was suddenly informed that it might collapse at any minute

All traffic had been banned a year earlier. Now, overnight, this 133-year-old link between Barnes, on the south side, and Hammersmith, to the north, was sealed off to pedestrians, cyclists — even dogs.

And because it could now fall into the Thames without warning, the authorities have also decreed that nothing shall pass underneath either — not even a kayak.

As a result, all river traffic is banned — indefinitely. It means that for the first time since the

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