Hammersmith Bridge is set to reopen to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic at 9am this Saturday, it was announced today.
The 134-year-old bridge was closed completely in August after cracks in the iron pedestals expanded during a heatwave.
However, the decision has been made to partially reopen after engineers carried out a series of comprehensive safety investigations following the introduction of a temperature control system.
Hammersmith & Fulham Council leader Stephen Cowan and Richmond Council leader Gareth Roberts were both present for the announcement and both expressed relief at the news.
Cowan said: “I am very pleased to confirm the latest advice from safety engineers is that we can safely re-open Hammersmith Bridge.
“I know how difficult the last 11 months have been for people, particularly children needing to cross the river to get to school and those who need to attend medical appointments or get to work.
“The potential for catastrophic collapse of this 134-year-old suspension structure was very real. We will always put the safety of the public first.”
Roberts added: “I recognise that this has been a long and difficult process for residents on both sides of the river and I would like to thank them for their patience. Safety has always been paramount and must continue to be so.
“However I am pleased to be able to tell residents that there is light at the end of the tunnel and am delighted that this historic bridge which connects our two boroughs will re-open to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic this weekend.”
Hammersmith Bridge has been shut to road traffic since April 2019, and could be at least partially closed until 2027.
The councils had been exploring the option of a passenger ferry service, but pricing had proved a sticking point.
Who will fund the repairs of the bridge is an unresolved issue, as the Government confirmed last month the Department for Transport (DfT) would only pay a third of the cost.
The rest must be funded by TfL and Hammersmith & Fulham, with the total bill expected to cost around £100m.
Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrat MP for Richmond Park, poured cold water on the announcement, pointing out that there was still a lot of work to be done.
Olney said: “This is hugely welcomes news. The Bridge’s closure has had appalling consequences for my constituents, particularly school children who’ve been forced to take longer, more dangerous routes to school, and businesses who’ve seen their revenues shrink in the absence of vital footfall.
“However, once TfL, DfT and Hammersmith & Fulham Council agree on a funding plan for the Bridge’s long-term stabilisation, it will likely have to be closed for periods of time while the permanent repairs can be made.
“This just underlines how important it is we get a ferry service up and running as soon as possible, and that’s why I have written to Hammersmith & Fulham urging them to expedite the planning application for the pier.
“There are also thousands of residents across my constituency and south west London for whom vehicular transport is essential.
“I will therefore continue urging the three parties to work together constructively so that a funding plan for the Bridge’s long-term strengthening can be agreed on at the earliest possible opportunity. For that to happen, the DfT must be realistic with what it expects the other parties to contribute.”
Putney MP Fleur Anderson also called on the Government to fund the bridge’s restoration on Twitter, citing the effect the closure of the bridge was having on her constituency.
One proposal Hammersmith & Fulham has said it plans to propose is the introduction of a road charging or toll scheme.
Cowan said: “Hammersmith Bridge is an ancient suspension structure and historic national landmark. It’s a major road artery and a unique part of this country’s engineering heritage. To secure its maintenance, and keep it open through until the next century, we believe it is vital that the motorists who use the bridge pays for its upkeep.”