Double-deck plan could see cyclists and pedestrians return to bridge by next summer, says council

Foster + Partners Hammersmith bridge final

Source: Foster + Partners

The practice has come up with proposals for a temporary bridge

Foster & Partners’ plans for repairing Hammersmith Bridge could slash £40m from the repair bill and help the bridge reopen four years sooner than the current plan, Hammersmith & Fulham council has said.

The bridge could potentially reopen for pedestrians and cyclists next summer, and motor vehicles two months later, under plans that have been presented to the council. This would be more than three years after it was closed to traffic because of safety fears.

hammersmith bridge

Source: Shutterstock

The bridge was closed to traffic in April 2019, with a full closure to pedestrians and cyclists implemented in summer 2020. Boats are also forbidden from sailing underneath because of safety fears

A six-week £200,000 technical study conducted jointly by Fosters and bridge engineer Cowi found that a temporary double-decker crossing is feasible using the existing bridge foundations.

The proposal has been initially costed at around £100m, which Fosters said was around £40m less than the current restoration plan, as well as being faster.

The double-decker scheme would involve launching a truss structure above the existing road deck with a lower level for pedestrians and cyclists and an upper level for cars and buses.

Elements of the bridge that need repair, including the decking, would be lifted away using the temporary bridge as a works platform and transported by barges to an offsite facility for repair and restoration.

Historic England, which has already been involved in discussions about the plan, will need to approve the works which supporters said would enable the listed Victorian bridge to be restored with fewer constraints.

The full restoration could be completed in 2023, said the borough.

Council leader Stephen Cowan and the design team will discuss the findings of the feasibility study at this week’s meeting of the government’s Hammersmith Bridge taskforce.

The council has also submitted an outline financial plan to transport secretary Grant Shapps for the restoration work to be funded through a toll. It is currently awaiting the government’s response.

Roger Ridsdill Smith, head of structural engineering at Foster & Partners, said: “The feasibility study supports the technical viability of the proposed temporary crossing, showing that it has the potential to be significantly cheaper than a scheme that repairs the bridge in situ.

”It also offers the possibility of the bridge reopening earlier than previously envisaged. The feasibility study was expedited by the extensive investigations and analysis already carried out on the existing structure and we are grateful for the cooperation of all of the parties involved.”

Hammersmith Bridge temp crossing installed Foster and Partners and COWI

Source: Foster & Partners / COWI

His colleague Luke Fox, a senior executive partner at the firm, said they were encouraged by the feedback, saying: “We are now a step closer to resolving a major transportation challenge in London and restoring a unique symbol of our engineering heritage.” The team has continued to refine the design to reduce the impact of the temporary structure, he added.

The bridge is at the centre of a political tussle with the council, TfL and the government all blaming each other for the disruption and lack of progess.

Last November, Shapps asked the council to pay at least £64m or 50% of the cost of the stabilisation and strengthening works required to safely re-open the bridge. The council is arguing this is not fair on residents since the bridge is part of the capital’s strategic road network and neighbouring local authorities with bridges have received greater financial support from central funds.

Early assessments indicate that motorists might be prepared to pay an average of £3 to drive across the 134-year-old bridge, the ownership of which could be transferred to a charitable trust.

The grade II* listed bridge was closed to traffic in April 2019 on public safety grounds and then additionally to pedestrians and cyclists last August after cracks in the cast iron pedestals were found to have widened during a heatwave. It was closed to traffic two years ago.

Mott McDonald, the specialist engineer engaged by H&F to work on the bridge, is completing assessment work on the western side of the bridge following the removal of the outer casings and the blast cleaning of the final two pedestals. It is expected to submit a report on these next month.