The more and more bitter political confrontation over the way forward for Hammersmith Bridge intensified immediately when Transport Secretary Grant Shapps stated he was “fed up with waiting” for the native council and Mayor to repair it.
Speaking on LBC radio’s Nick Ferrari present, Mr Shapps claimed the “very key artery”, which has been shut to site visitors since April 2019 and to pedestrians and cyclists since final month, was in a “sorry state” and had been uncared for for a long time.
His outburst got here the day after he set up a taskforce, headed by roads minister Baroness Vere, geared toward discovering methods to velocity up the repairs to the Victorian crossing that hyperlinks Hammersmith and Barnes.
Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham council closed the Grade II* listed bridge to autos final yr after inspections discovered cracks that left it at risk of collapsing into the Thames.
Pedestrians and cyclists had been additionally banned from crossing and boats from passing beneath after the cracks widened throughout the summer time heatwave.
The council estimates the price of a full restore at £141 million however a partial restoration to stabilise it, permitting pedestrians and cyclists again throughout, would price round £46 million.
But Mr Shapps claimed the invoice had been “moving all over the place” and one of many priorities of the taskforce shall be to discover a dependable determine.
Mr Shapps talking with workmen (Department for Transport)
He additionally pledged that the closure wouldn’t threaten the Oxford and Cambridge boat race subsequent spring as “some limited traffic” underneath the bridge shall be allowed.
But Labour and Liberal Democrat council leaders and MPs in west London warned that the taskforce, which is due to make its first evaluation on Monday, was at risk of turning into an “empty talking shop” and solely a authorities dedication to funding the restore work might convey it again into use.
In a joint assertion, Stephen Cowan the chief of Hammersmith and Fulham, and Richmond council chief Gareth Roberts, in addition to the MPs for Hammersmith, Richmond Park, Putney, and Brentford and Isleworth stated: “Only the Government has the financial resources to fix this bridge. Ministers must urgently commit to funding the necessary repairs.”
One native, Becky Shammas, wrote on Twitter: “Stop grandstanding, get the experts to install a temporary crossing then sort funding for repairs.”