Sir Vince Cable said passengers who use Hammersmith Bridge deserve a better deal
Twickenham MP Vince Cable has criticised the authorities responsible for Hammersmith Bridge, saying bus passengers who use the bridge “deserve a far better deal”.
The bridge, which was closed for most of the day on December 28 and December 29, can currently only hold a single decker bus at any one time, holding up many bus commuters who travel on the six bus routes that pass through it.
Plans to improve the bridge were made back in 2014, but repair work has allegedly been suspended due to an ongoing dispute between Hammersmith Council and Transport for London.
It would appear TfL's priority is more inline with the implementation of the Segregated Cycle Lane through King Street and Chiswick High Road.
Sir Vince said: “Due to dithering about undertaking proper repairs and strengthening work of this bridge, we now have the situation where the bridge completely closes at short notice.
“I do wonder how many of these sudden closures due to ‘emergency repairs’ will occur in the year ahead. And even when the bridge is open it can only operate with a 7.5 tonne restriction in place which involves wardens having to be employed to ensure that only one single decker bus can cross the bridge at any time.”
Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which is responsible for maintaining and controlling the bridge, issued a cabinet member decision report back in December 2014 which included plans to strengthen the bridge between the summer of 2015 and 2016.
TFL, which runs the bus network that uses the bridge, according to the same document, requested that the bridge is strengthened to allow double decker buses to pass through. They estimated it would cost £25 million and offered to pay £23.5 million towards this.
Since then motorists and bus passengers who travel on the 72, 209, 419, 485, 609 buses and the 33 bus, which travels through Twickenham before going through Richmond, East Sheen, Barnes and ending at Hammersmith, have contended with bridge closures in October and December last year, because emergency repair work was needed.
But the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said that essential repair work on the bridge was not expected to be completed until 2021, in an answer at Mayor’s Question time last December. He said this was based on information TFL had received from Hammersmith and Fulham Council, who announced a major programme to repair the bridge would not commence until late 2018.
A Freedom of Information request (FOI) revealed that as of March 2017, the weekly cost for TFL enforcing the single bus rule was £6,600 per week.
But Hammersmith and Fulham Council has denied any dispute between themselves and TFL.
A representative from the council said they continue to work closely with TFL. They added: “There is absolutely no dispute between Hammersmith & Fulham Council and TFL over funding refurbishment works for Hammersmith Bridge.”
TFL has also denied there is any dispute.
(Another scandal sweated under the carpet perhaps)
Sir Vince said key decisions between the two organisations needed to be made quickly. He said: “I accept the current situation creates far more inconvenience for people nearest to the bridge, such as in Barnes and East Sheen, however the bridge also serves the important 33 bus route which is vital to many communities throughout Twickenham. Bus users on both side of the Thames deserve a far better from Hammersmith Council and TfL.”