A temporary ferry service will soon operate in west London to shuttle pedestrians and cyclists across the Thames alongside the closed Hammersmith Bridge.
Transport for London (TfL) announced today that it had received bids from City Cruises and Uber Boats by Thames Clippers to run the shuttle service, after receiving government funding.
The new ferry will be able to take 800 passengers an hour across the river and will run from 6am to 10pm on weekdays, as well as an “off-peak service” at the weekend.
TfL said it would be able to award the contract next month in a bid to reduce congestion caused by the closed Hammersmith Bridge.
TfL’s head of major projects sponsorship David Rowe said: “This ferry will restore the vital cross-river connection between Hammersmith and Barnes, and allow repair work to be done on Hammersmith Bridge at the same time.
“We look forward to appointing one of these shortlisted operators in the coming weeks and then having people onboard boats as soon as possible.”
The Hammersmith Bridge was closed to vehicles in 2019 due to potentially dangerous cracks, but stayed open for cyclists and pedestrians.
Last summer, during a heatwave, it was also closed to cyclists and pedestrians as the cracks widened and fears grew of a “catastrophic failure”.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council and TfL have rowed with the government over funding to get the bridge repaired, with the London bodies believing it will cost £140m.
A government taskforce chaired by transport minister Baroness Charlotte Vere is believed to think it could be done for less.
In December, the taskforce also released a report from engineering firm Aecom that said the bridge may be safe to reopen for pedestrians and cyclists.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council dismissed the report, pointing out that “world-leading specialist engineers” said the bridge must stay completely closed.
Conservative Hammersmith and Fulham MP Greg Hands said he welcomed the arrival of a new ferry service, but said “the bigger issue for my constituents remains the bridge itself”.
“The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham needs to work with the government taskforce and to bring forward a plan for its repair and re-opening to traffic, now almost two years since its sudden closure,” he said.
“Fulham has suffered terribly in 2019 and in the middle part of 2020 from diverted traffic, and as the Prime Minister has now laid out his Roadmap out of lockdown, traffic will doubtless pick up again.”