Engineers from Mott MacDonald have completed their checks of Hammersmith Bridge and have given the green light for the River Thames crossing to reopen to pedestrians and cyclists.
Hammersmith & Fulham Council has confirmed that the West London crossing will open as early as this weekend. River traffic will also be allowed to operate beneath the bridge.
It will remain closed to motorised traffic until strengthening work is carried out.
The bridge has been closed to motorised traffic for more than two years. It was closed completely in August last year after cracks in the structures cast iron structure widened, leading to fears that it could collapse.
Since then nobody – except a few inspection engineers – have crossed the old green and gold Victorian structure in West London.
In the months since there have been squabbles between politicians about funding a potential £161M repair plan, while engineers have aired disagreements on whether the bridge needed to be closed in the first place.
The DfT has now committed to footing a third of the repair bill, but the council and TfL are struggling for cash to cover the rest.
Mott MacDonald engineering checks on the bridge included inspections to the chain knuckles in the bridge’s anchor chain as well as independent evaluation of inspections already carried out on the bridge’s pedestals.
Under the Taskforce’s engineering plan, spearheaded by London Olympics transport mastermind Dana Skelly, the bridge will not be reopened to motorised traffic for at least six years.
Hammersmith & Fulham leader Stephen Cowan said: “I am very pleased to confirm the latest advice from safety engineers is that we can safely re-open Hammersmith Bridge. We have instructed the team to do that. It will open this weekend.
“I know how difficult the last eleven months have been for people, particularly children needing to cross the river to get to school and those who need to attend medical appointments or get to work.”
He added: “The potential for catastrophic collapse of this 134-year-old suspension structure was very real. We’ve employed the best engineers from around the world who advised we had to close the bridge last summer. We will always put the safety of the public first.
“Ever since, I have been determined to re-open the bridge as soon as it was safely possible. The introduction of the temperature control system, and the results of our extensive engineering investigations, now mean that the bridge can be opened for use by pedestrians, cyclists and to river traffic.”
The recommendation to re-open was made following a special meeting of the Board for the Case for the Continued Safe Operation of Hammersmith Bridge, the body which provides safety advice to the council about the bridge and includes engineers from Mott MacDonald, WSP and Xanta.
The CCSO confirmed that a series of engineering investigations including an industry standard Category 3 safety check of the Mott McDonald report into fractures in the north-east pedestal, and reviews of the the pedestal casings and a suspect chain knuckle joint had been undertaken.
“All these points have now been confirmed satisfactorily and they effectively allow the re-opening of the bridge to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic,” said the CCSO. It added that “safety risk is kept acceptably low” due to the temperature control system on the anchor chains and the use of acoustic sensors which have been installed to issue alerts on further crack movements.
The CCSO statement concludes: “These arrangements are temporary measures and not a substitute for permanent repair. The application of a permanent solution remains a priority. Without a funded plan for repair the limited current use must cease eventually. It is not acceptable in managing safety risk to rely upon interim measures indefinitely.”