London Bridges Falling Down
Funding Critical for Iconic Infrastructure Repair
TOP PHOTO COURTESY OF HAMMERSMITH & FULHAM COUNCIL. BOTTOM PHOTO BY BIM / ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS
Hammersmith Bridge and London Bridge, below
A decade of economic austerity is taking its toll on London’s public bridges. Last year, numerous closings drew ire and concern from frustrated residents. Hammersmith Bridge, Vauxhall Bridge, London Bridge and Tower Bridge were all shut down, with reasons ranging from mechanical glitches to urgently needed repairs to structural corrosion.
London Bridge’s £5 million repair project was completed in September, a month earlier than expected. But finding project funding remains much more elusive for other projects. Fully repairing the 19th-century Hammersmith Bridge, which was closed to vehicles in April 2019 and pedestrians in August 2020, would cost an estimated £141 million. Stabilizing the bridge enough for pedestrians would cost £46 million, and building a temporary bridge might tally £27 million. But both the bridge owner (Hammersmith & Fulham Council) and the local transportation authority lack the resources to green-light full repairs.
The bridge owners wrote an open-letter appeal to Prime Minister Boris Johnson for project funding. But “promising to build shiny things for the future is more attractive than fixing road surfaces or mending bridges,” Tony Travers, professor, department of government, London School of Economics, told The New York Times. During his election, the prime minister promised to fund projects like a US$130 billion high-speed railway.
Still, momentum may be on the horizon. In September, the government launched a task force headed by Dana Skelley, a former Transport for London official who led London’s £4 billion road-modernization plan ahead of the London Olympics, to develop a repair plan for Hammersmith Bridge.
The Edge written by: Ambreen Ali, Amanda Hermans, Steve Hendershot, Jen Thomas and Amy Wilkinson