The government is refusing to fund repairs for the closed Hammersmith Bridge because it believes the £140m price tag has been inflated by the local council and Transport for London (TfL), City A.M. can reveal.
A source close to transport secretary Grant Shapps said the government wants to fund the restoration of the 133-year-old West London bridge, but it first wants to make its own assessment of the repair costs.
The Hammersmith Bridge was closed to vehicles last year due to potentially dangerous cracks, but stayed open for cyclists and pedestrians.
Last month, during a heatwave, it was also closed to cyclists and pedestrians as the cracks widened and fears grew of a “catastrophic failure”.
Its closure has led to an outpouring of frustration from West Londoners and has caused traffic build-ups in the area.
TfL and Hammersmith and Fulham Council sent in a funding bid to the Department of Transport, estimating the cost to be £140m – a £100m increase from initial estimates.
The source close to Shapps told City A.M. that “the government does not believe the £140m figure”.
“There’s a lot of doubt around the figure that has been put out there and the government wants to interrogate it,” they said.
“They want to know why it’s gone from £40m to £140m in such a small space of time.”
Shapps announced the formation of a Hammersmith Bridge taskforce today, led by transport minister Baroness Charlotte Vere, with a view to opening the bridge for cycling and walking “as soon as safely possible” and re-opening it to vehicles “in time”.
Shapps said there had been a “lack of leadership in London on re-opening this vital bridge” in a clear jab at mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the Hammersmith and Fulham Council and TfL.
A spokesperson for Khan hit back at the government for not providing funding required for the repairs.
“Londoners need the government to pay to get Hammersmith Bridge repaired and reopened — they do not need another talking shop that will just lead to more delay and disruption,” they said.
The Labour-run Hammersmith and Fulham Council originally estimated the cost of the repairs would cost between £30m to £40m. The figure was revised upward by TfL and the council to £120m last September.
Now estimate has ballooned to £140m, with TfL also asking for a further £25m to build a temporary crossing for pedestrians adjacent to the bridge when repairs are underway.
It is estimated that the job would take three years to complete and TfL has already set aside £25m of its own money to help fund the project.
Chelsea and Fulham MP Greg Hands said the saga had been “an incredible example of incompetence from TfL and Hammersmith and Fulham council”.
“All the signs are that the two authorities don’t want the job and are not up for the job,” he said.
The leader of the Fulham and Hammersmith Council Stephen Cowan said he hoped the govenrment “will now work with our cross-party team to prioritise the needs of residents on both sides of the river”.
He added: “There is an urgency to tackling this issue, so while TfL, Hammersmith and Fulham and Richmond councils will play a full part inthe government’s taskforce, we must avoid an empty talking shop.”
A TfL spokesperson said: “The cost estimates for the restoration have been put together by a highly-experienced team of consultants, contractors and our own experts. We have never said that the cost estimate to restore the bridge to vehicle traffic was £40m and we are unclear where that figure has come from.
“We, along with Hammersmith and Fulham Council, have been working with the DfT for many months as part of the project to restore Hammersmith Bridge and will continue to work closely with all parties to develop a viable solution as quickly as possible.”