Hammersmith bridge should not reopen to cars, says Green mayoral candidate Zoe Garbett

Green mayoral candidate Zoe Garbett (second left) with Green campaigners at Hammersmith bridge (Supplied)
Green mayoral candidate Zoe Garbett (second left) with Green campaigners at Hammersmith bridge (Supplied)

Hammersmith bridge is “working by accident” and should remain open to pedestrians and cyclists but closed to cars, according to a London mayoral candidate.

The bridge was closed five years ago on safety grounds but was temporarily reopened in February to cyclists while work is carried out to repair damage caused when it was hit by a West Ham “party boat” last December.

This 10-week reopening – during which cyclists have been able to ride across the bridge’s central carriageway rather than push their bikes alongside pedestrians – is due to end next month.

On Thursday, Zoe Garbett, the Green mayoral candidate, said keeping the 137-year-old bridge open only to cyclists and pedestrians on a long-term would avoid the need for years of major repairs, the cost of which have soared to £250m.

She criticised the “years of chaos” since Hammersmith and Fulham council closed the bridge to vehicles on April 10, 2019.

Since then, the council, Transport for London and the Department for Transport have been unable to agree a funding deal to fully reopen the bridge to cars and buses.

Bridging the gap: Zoe Garbett wants Hammersmith bridge to remain a walking and cycling bridge (Supplied)
Bridging the gap: Zoe Garbett wants Hammersmith bridge to remain a walking and cycling bridge (Supplied)

Ms Garbett, who was visiting the bridge on Thursday, accused the Labour-run council and Labour mayor Sadiq Khan of overseeing a “multi-year debacle” on Hammersmith Bridge caused by their “refusal to prioritise any type of travel other than motor traffic”.

She said: “Right now, Hammersmith bridge is being used by residents, commuters, people walking and cycling, serving them better than ever before.

“By accident, Labour has now got this bridge working. By design, they are intent on ruining it once again, by giving it back to the drivers despite the climate and air pollution crises.

“Greens see this differently. As mayor, I would simply save the £250m and keep Hammersmith Bridge for people walking, wheeling and cycling.”

She promised to “explore options for innovative public transport services” across the river if bus links cannot be restored.

In his 2021 mayoral manifesto, Mr Khan vowed to “press the Government for urgent funding to restore this important river crossing”, calling its ongoing closure “unacceptable”.

He said on Thursday that he remains committed to reopening it to vehicles, saying its closure had caused widespread chaos for motorists.

Tory assembly member Tony Devenish recently called for the bridge to be renamed the “Sadiq Khan bridge” to highlight the alleged lack of action from TfL in getting it reopened to vehicles.

Last month the London Assembly said the bridge closure meant residents in Richmond “have effectively been cut off from bus links that connected them to the wider Tube network in Hammersmith.”

Some MPs fear the bridge may never reopen to cars. Hammersmith and Fulham council says it expects to open “invitations to tender” for the strengthening and full repair of the bridge later this year, with a contract being signed in “early 2025”.

It said on its website: “If the temporary truss proposal is adopted, cars and buses could be crossing within 12 to 18 months.”

The bridge, a Grade II*-listed iron structure that opened in 1887, used to carry about 22,000 vehicles a day and seven bus routes.

Since 2019, the council has spent £29 million stabilising the bridge and preparing it for strengthening and restoration, of which £8.5 million has been reimbursed by the Government.

A council spokesman said on Thursday: "The stabilisation works are planned to resume next month when the main carriageway will close again.

"Full access for pedestrians will be maintained, as always, and wheels can be walked across just like pre-February."