Hammersmith Bridge

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 29th July 2019.

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Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

Using a fraction of the £350 million that had been earmarked for the Rotherhithe Bridge in the TfL Business Plan, will you commit to fully funding the repair and upgrade works for the Hammersmith Bridge?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

TfL is working closely with Hammersmith and Fulham to reopen Hammersmith Bridge for motor vehicles as quickly as possible. Specialist teams paid for by TfL are working tirelessly to ensure a full range of options are properly explored and costed. However, until a single option has been confirmed, TfL cannot know the most appropriate funding stream for repairing this 132-year-old wood and cast-iron suspension bridge. TfL expects that a single option will be agreed in August [2019]. It will then work with Hammersmith and Fulham Council to identify appropriate funding and will consider this as part of its annual business planning process.

The funding that was allocated to the proposed Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf Bridge cannot simply be reallocated to the Hammersmith Bridge. The main reason is that funding for the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf Bridge would have come from TfL’s capital budget. Accounting rules dictate that capital expenditure requires an organisation to have control over the asset in question. Given that Hammersmith Bridge is owned and controlled by Hammersmith and Fulham Council, its renewal cannot be funded through TfL’s capital funding. Anything TfL spends on Hammersmith Bridge must therefore be accounted for as operating expenditure and, as you know, it is this funding that the Conservative Government has completely removed from TfL, an average of £700 million a year.

It is therefore vital that the Government urgently provides certainty of long-term funding for the day-to-day operation and renewal of London’s transport system, including structures like Hammersmith Bridge. This is important not only for TfL but for London boroughs that have been significantly affected by funding cuts and vital for businesses that are seeking certainty that London will continue to be an attractive place to do business. Once the ongoing technical work to understand options and potential costs concludes, we will work with the Government to solve this problem together.

In the meantime I assure the Assembly that TfL, Deputy Mayor Heidi Alexander and I are taking the situation with Hammersmith Bridge extremely seriously. This is why TfL is using its limited operating budget to fund the ongoing design work on the bridge, drawing from a small pot of money that needs to be spread across all borough roads and bridges. This design work is continuing at pace and TfL will soon be in a position to work with the Council to explore funding options for the main construction works.

Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

Thank you, Mr Mayor. There have been some suggestions in the press - and I hope not from TfL - that the bridge may not reopen ever to buses and cars. Will you promise my constituents that there is no truth in these rumours at all, please?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I have seen nothing of that sort.

Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

Thank you. There is also a lot of speculation that the bridge could be shut for at least three years. Can you commit to a fast-track reopening of this bridge when you make your decision in August [2019]?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

That is a very good question. The concern is - and thank you for articulating that - that it will take a long time to reopen the bridge.  I am quite clear - and it has been raised before at Mayor’s Question Time by the Deputy Chairman [Tony Arbour AM] - that we need this bridge reopened as soon as possible.

Just to reassure you, the work that is being undertaken will look into the likely requirements of the bridge, the options available, the timescale and the costs. As far as the timescale is concerned, we want to open it as soon as we possibly can.

Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

Thank you. You will appreciate that transparency is important to avoid these kinds of rumours. Hammersmith and Fulham Council has refused the freedom of information (FOI) requests for the engineers reports that were done at the end of last year [2018]. The excuse was security grounds. Will you please instruct TfL, which has copies of these reports, to release the reports publicly?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I do not know about this. Can I look into this?  I am not sure about the FOI or security grounds. Without going into the details of this bridge, there are sometimes good security reasons why we do not want reports to be made public, but I do not know enough about this particular case. Can I go away and then get somebody to respond to the Assembly Member?

Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

Thank you. Congestion has increased across southwest London since the buses and cars have had to be diverted across Chiswick Bridge or Putney Bridge, which is causing real hardship for people. Do you have any figures in terms of the level of congestion? This is stopping people getting to school and to work for up to 30 minutes, I am being told.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

TfL has been talking to the councils because it is not just Hammersmith and Fulham Council affected. There are other councils around that are affected as well. There are figures available, which I am happy to share with the Assembly Member if he wants to see them.

One of the things that TfL is regularly doing is reviewing the bus options. If, for example, there are representations or ideas about alleviating some of the congestion by bus routes around the area, clearly not crossing this bridge, TfL is very happy to move quickly and can move quickly. Again, if there any suggestions to reduce congestion, we are open to ideas.

Photo of Tony Devenish Tony Devenish Conservative

Thank you. In terms of your August [2019] date, can you please advise us before it is going to be made public so that we can have a meeting on this? This is clearly the number-one issue for my constituents.

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, I will agree to ask Deputy Mayor [for Transport] Heidi Alexander to brief the relevant Assembly Members and anybody else who wants to be briefed in advance of the report being made public. The good news is that we are talking about months now rather than seasons. I always get nervous when I am advised a season by which a report will be ready. The good news is that we are being given a month, which is August [2019].

Chair, I will undertake to do that and I will make sure my office and Heidi’s office speaks to at least Tony [Devenish AM], Léonie Cooper [AM] and anybody else who is concerned as well. I will send a note to those four, Caroline Russell [AM], Léonie Cooper [AM], Tony Devenish [AM], Tony Arbour [AM] and Caroline Pidgeon [MBE AM], and anybody else who is interested.