Putney MP Says Government's Response on Hammersmith Bridge 'Disappointing'

Fleur Anderson asks for funding for reopening in Commons debate

Fleur Anderson discussing the issue this week in Parliament


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Fleur Anderson, MP for Putney, has described the government's response to her questions about Hammersmith Bridge in an adjournment debate this week as 'deeply disappointing'.

She had made a request in the Commons this Tuesday (28 June) for funding to be given by the government for the restoration and reopening of the bridge.

It has been closed to motor vehicles since 2019 which she says has caused a daily increase of between 500 to 4,000 extra vehicles going through Putney. 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 cost of restoring the heritage Bridge has risen to £161 million and the Government is insisting that the Hammersmith & Fulham Council, TfL and Government each pay a third. However, TfL and the council say they don't have the financial resources to do this so are looking into charging a toll to fund their share of the cost.

The government still haven't signed up to the memorandum of understanding sent to them by Hammersmith and Fulham Council in September last year and other opposition MPs including Andy Slaughter and Sarah Olney claim the government is still failing to properly fund the restoration of the bridge.

The Parliamentary debate on the future of Hammersmith Bridge this week was the second debate Ms Anderson has secured on the future of the bridge.

She 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.”

She also asked for an assessment of the impact of a toll but the minister didn't directly address this question in her answer.

Fleur Anderson campaigning on the bridge with Sam Tarry MP and Elly Baker MLA
Fleur Anderson campaigning on the bridge with Sam Tarry MP and Elly Baker MLA

Ms Anderson 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.

Trudy Harrison, the Parliamentary Under-secretary of State for Transport responded to the questions in the Commons by dismissing suggestions that the Government had been slow to come up with its share of the funding saying, "Since the establishment of the Hammersmith bridge taskforce, the project has made significant progress. Thanks to Government funding—some £4 million was provided on 31 October 2020—the bridge was able to reopen on 17 July 2021, albeit on a limited and controlled basis, to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic. The next stage of the project—reopening the bridge to motor vehicles—is under development by the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Providing a schedule for full reopening is part of the development process."

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July 1, 2022

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