Richmond Council has announced the deployment of guards to patrol the Hammersmith to Putney Thames towpath for the duration of the Hammersmith Bridge closure.
The stationing of four Parkguard marshals on bikes comes as one of several safety measures brought in for pedestrians and cyclists before the clocks go back this weekend.
From the 2 November, marshals dressed in labelled high-visibility clothing will patrol the towpath on weekdays between 3pm and 7pm.
The Council stated that the safety of schoolchildren was a key motivation behind the new measures, with all Parkguard marshals to be DBS checked and first aid qualified.
The implementation of LED lighting on towpath areas closest to the riverbank, as well as improvements to it’s gravel surface, were also announced alongside the marshals stationing.
Alexander Ehmann, Liberal Democrat Councillor for St Margaret’s and North Twickenham, said: “The Parkguard presence is a significant boost to security.
“Parkguard already do a brilliant job of patrolling our parks around the borough and I am confident their familiar presence will be valued by those using the towpath.”
The measures have received a mixed reaction on social media, with praise offset by criticism of the unnecessary pressure needed for such changes to be made.
Journalist Julia Llewellyn Smith responded to the news on Twitter:
Ehmann directly addressed these criticisms in a reply to Llewellyn Smith:
The Council announced that the measures will remain in place until next spring or when Hammersmith Bridge reopens, whichever comes soonest.
Closed completely since August after urgent safety concerns surrounding a crack, the Bridge’s re-opening has been an ongoing political issue, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussing it during today’s Prime Minister’s Questions.
Johnson said: “I can confirm that Hammersmith Bridge has been closed entirely thanks to the incompetence of the current Mayor of London and that Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate, is going to re-open it, and that is the best thing, that is the best thing possible.”
Ehmann, who also chairs the Transport and Air Quality Committee for Richmond Council, has been outspoken in his criticism of Johnson’s politicising of the issue.
His concluding comments on the Parkguard measures reinforced his frustration with the Bridge’s ongoing closure.
He said: “We have taken much needed action and crucially, put this Council’s money where its mouth is.
“Once again we urge the Government and other authorities to show similar resolve when it comes to the wider issues of connectivity and repair to Hammersmith Bridge.”
Last month, Transport Secretary Grant Schapps set up a task force to deal with Hammersmith Bridge’s closure, with issues remaining over where the money for the repairs will come from.
Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s latest updates on the bridge can be found here.