Hammersmith Bridge: £400,000 of taxpayers’ money spent on replacement ferry service that was never launched

·2-min read
The ferry proposal had been at an advanced stage  (Gareth Richman)
The ferry proposal had been at an advanced stage (Gareth Richman)

More than than £400,000 of taxpayers’ cash was spent drawing up plans for a replacement ferry beside Hammersmith bridge that never set sail, it emerged on Wednesday.

The ferry was proposed as a temporary solution to enable residents to cross the Thames between Barnes and Hammersmith while the bridge remained closed to pedestrians and cyclists.

The option was only formally ditched at the end of November by the Government’s Hammersmith bridge taskforce, four months after the bridge was part-reopened when its cast-iron structure was found to be more stable than first thought.

The ferry proposal had been at an advanced stage, with Uber Boat by Thames Clippers selected to run the service – which would have taken 90 seconds and cost £1.55 a trip – and planning applications submitted to build temporary piers on both sides of the river.

Details of the costs incurred in keeping the ferry option on “standby” emerged in a written answer from Mayor Sadiq Khan to the Lib-Dems.

Sarah Olney, Lib-Dem MP for Richmond Park, said an “inexcusable” amount of money had been wasted.

She said: “Once the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and cyclists, and assurances were given that it would not be closed for extended periods of time, it was clear to almost everyone that the ferry service would no longer be required.

“Apparently the Department for Transport did not get the memo. Now nearly half a million pounds has been spent on retaining a service that will never see the light of day.

“Throughout this entire saga, getting the government to cough up any significant funds has been painfully hard work, so seeing how much money has been wasted on the ferry really is inexcusable when you think about what else it could have been spent on.”

The ferry was initially proposed as a solution to the nightmare journey that many Barnes schoolchildren had to take twice a day to reach school in Hammersmith.

With the bridge fully closed - it first closed to traffic in 2019 and then also to pedestrians and cyclists in August 2020 as concerns about its safety increased - they were required to travel via the pedestrian footbridge beside Barnes railway bridge, and then via a poorly-lit meadow and riverside lanes that often flooded.

But once the bridge partly reopened in July 2021, the need for the ferry ended - though Barnes residents fear that when the bridge finally undergoes full repairs, they will once again be cut off from the north side of the river.

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