Fleur Anderson MP has expressed her disappointment at the Government’s response to her request for funding to restore and fully reopen Hammersmith Bridge.
Hammersmith Bridge has been closed to vehicles since 2019, which has caused a daily increase of between 500 to 4,000 extra vehicles going through Putney every day. Putney High Street is one of the most polluted high streets in the country, and was reported in January 2021 to have illegally high levels of nitrogen dioxide.
The Parliamentary debate held on Tuesday 28th June 2022 on the future of Hammersmith Bridge was the second debate Fleur Anderson MP has secured on the future of the bridge.
Fleur Anderson MP, Labour MP for Putney, said:
“I am deeply disappointed by the Government’s response to my constituents on this crucial issue. The continued closure of Hammersmith Bridge hugely impacts the quality of the air my residents have to breathe going about their daily lives, causes traffic misery and deters people from cycling.
“Around 60 constituents die prematurely each year because of this pollution, and we now face the prospect of this continuing for several more years until Hammersmith Bridge is fully repaired.
“Allowing a major transport route in our capital city to stay closed for so many years is a major failure of this Government. It has taken far too long to and there is still no sign of the Bridge reopening.
“The Transport Minister said in response to the debate that reopening Hammersmith Bridge to all users is and remains a Government priority. But we are yet to see any evidence of this being the case. Putney’s residents need to see that the Government is taking this seriously.”
The cost of restoring the heritage Bridge is up to £161 million and the Government is insisting that the Council, TfL and Government each pay a third. But TfL and the Council do not have the budget for this and so are looking into charging a toll which could keep traffic going through Putney. Fleur asked for an assessment of this impact but didn’t get an answer to this question from the Minister either.
Fleur Anderson MP continued:
“It is Hammersmith and Fulham Council that made the assessment of the danger in the first place, has made the business case for the stabilisation works and funded those works up front, and has drawn up the memorandum of understanding between the council, the Government and Transport for London, the three parties that will be responsible for the funding.
“The clear impasse is now the memorandum of understanding. The Government has had it since 14 September 2021 and it has still not been signed. The Department for Transport must sign the memorandum of understanding and fund the full restoration of the bridge as a matter of urgency.”
Andy Slaughter, MP for Hammersmith, said in the debate:
“I am in a state of despair, listening to the Minister. The cost of reopening this bridge could be £160 million…All the initiative so far has been taken by Hammersmith and Fulham Council—whether that is on the memorandum of understanding, on the proposals for the cheaper Foster COWI bridge, or on the stabilisation work—to get the bridge open permanently again to pedestrians. This is a strategic route through London. The Government must step up to the plate.
Putney Society submitted the following statement for the debate:
“Congestion is at an all time high with roads leading towards Putney Bridge clogged up before 7 am in the morning, with traffic jams continuing well into the evening. Prior to the Bridge closure in 2019 Putney already suffered from one of the most polluted High Streets in the country. And despite positive measures such as the introduction of cleaner buses and the ULEZ zone, our pollution levels continue to exceed UK legal limits, in part because of additional traffic resulting from the Bridge closure. Around 60 constituents die prematurely each year because of this pollution, and we now face the prospect of this continuing for several more years until Hammersmith Bridge is fully repaired.
“The extra traffic has affected thousands of people. Aside from the impact of pollution on residents’ health, children and students have suffered disrupted journeys to their school or college; workers, especially those travelling from Roehampton, have faced significantly lengthened bus journeys and businesses have had delayed deliveries. And the most vulnerable people, who require access to healthcare, whether appointments or vital emergency treatment, face delays in getting an ambulance or reaching nearby hospitals. Why? Because ambulances can no longer take a short hop across the Bridge to Barnes or beyond but now spend much, much longer in traffic”.
Campaigners say that bridge funding is inconsistent across London, and that the unique wrought iron and wood bridge is a special case both historically and financially, arguing that the Government must step up to save this major heritage bridge.