Hammersmith & Fulham Council announced in a Twitter post this week that stabilisation works on Hammersmith Bridge will begin later this month.
In a letter that will be sent to residents this weekend, the council said the £8.9m stabilisation programme will take about nine months to complete and will ensure the bridge can stay open to pedestrians, cyclists, and river traffic.
Repairs to fully reopen the 135-year-old Victorian structure to motor traffic are expected to begin after stabilisation is complete, pending government approval of the council’s repair plan.
A major transport artery, the bridge was closed to motor traffic in April 2019 and to all traffic in August 2020 after micro-fractures were discovered in the cast iron pedestals.
The bridge reopened on 17 July 2021 to pedestrians and cyclists, but its closure has had a significant impact on residents.
Julia Watkins, a member of the steering committee for the resident advocacy group Hammersmith Bridge SOS said: “We were completely cut off, and it had a devastating effect on the community.
“People were coming to us who were suicidal with the stress of not being able to reach out.
“It sounds kind of mad if you don’t live here, but we couldn’t reach anyone.”
Watkins said while she welcomes the council’s update, residents do not want the stabilisation works to fully shut down the Grade II* listed bridge again.
The council said the main carriageway will be closed during stabilisation works, so cyclists and e-scooter users will have to dismount to use the pedestrian footways.
However, it claims to be determined to restrict major works that necessitate closing the bridge to off-peak times.
Watkins added residents are also frustrated at the lack of communication they have received from the council and government-led Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce about the long-term plans for the bridge.
She said: “The taskforce and Hammersmith & Fulham Council both seem to work with a culture of secrecy, which is extraordinary as the people who use the bridge pay their wages through tax.
“The impression residents are getting is that the hope is if everyone just keeps silent, eventually people will forget a major bridge in the capital city has been closed for nearly three years now.”
The taskforce is led by the Department for Transport (DfT), chaired by Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport Baroness Charlotte Vere, and includes Transport for London (TfL) among its membership.
A tripartite cost-sharing agreement was reached by the council, DfT and TfL last summer, but government funding for the stabilisation works will reportedly not be unlocked until the taskforce formally approves the council’s business case.
The council submitted its business case in November 2021 and decided to move forward with the stabilisation works in anticipation that the government will reimburse the council with their one-third shares.
It is unclear where the government is in its review process of the council’s stabilisation or repair plans.
Neither the DfT nor TfL have responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.