GLA candidates were divided on how to end the Hammersmith Bridge funding stalemate, as Conservative and Labour representatives took polar opposite approaches in a hustings debate last night.
Louise Calland, Conservative candidate for Merton & Wandsworth, said her party’s mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey has a ‘fully funded’ plan for Hammersmith Bridge, whereas Labour’s Merton & Wandsworth candidate Leonie Cooper stressed the Government’s responsibility in funding the £141 million bridge repairs.
The contentious issue was raised by a member of Hammersmith Bridge SOS Steering Group, a residents pressure group, who asked the GLA candidates how they planned to fund the repairs and what they would do to make reopening the bridge an urgent priority.
The Conservatives pledged a London Infrastructure Bank, which Calland argued will fully pay for huge projects like Hammersmith Bridge.
Bailey hopes to raise £10 billion for the Bank by private funding over three years.
Calland asked: “If a bridge went down in Richmond in North Yorkshire, would we expect central government to fix it or would we expect Yorkshire to do so?”
The question was dismissed by Labour’s Cooper who said: “No other part of the country would be expected to fund this.
“All of the other areas, whether that be Richmond in Yorkshire or whether that be anywhere else outside of London, get money back from Highways England but Londoners do not.
“It’s up to the Government to come to the table.”
The Liberal Democrats took a less extreme approach, as list candidate Hina Bokhari said that while the Government had to fund the bulk, some money could be contributed by cancelling the £2 billion Silvertown Tunnel project.
Khan approved the tunnel, which is a planned underground road tunnel that will link Silvertown to the Greenwich Peninsula, in 2019.
She said: “To expect councils to fork out the amount of money needed for Hammersmith Bridge is just not reasonable.
“It’s been an absolute tragedy and what the Liberal Democrats are saying is ‘well, if we don’t have a tunnel going under the river and use that money instead to invest on the bridge, that might be a way forward’.”
Both Bokhari and the Green Party’s list candidate Hannah Graham agreed that Hammersmith Bridge is being used for political point scoring, which negatively affects residents.
Graham said: “Currently no one in the Government, TfL or Hammersmith and Fulham Council is taking responsibility.”
The 133-year-old bridge shut to motorists in April 2019 after micro-fractures appeared in the cast iron pedestals.
It closed to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic in August 2020 after the heatwave widened the cracks and rendered it unsafe.
Featured image credit: Caroline Silfverling