Question from Xingang Wang, Resident
“Can the Leader of the Council provide an update on Hammersmith Bridge?”
Answer from Councillor Stephen Cowan, Leader of the Council
“Yes, and thank you for asking the question.
It is indeed a closed question, and so the answer is yes, I can. And the answer is that if you look on the H&F website, there is an extensive level of information; I would encourage all residents to look at the 2 films that we’ve made that set out the complexities around what is happening with Hammersmith Bridge, and indeed, reaffirm our commitment that this administration fully intends to deal with those complexities and reopen the bridge as quickly as possible.”
Follow-up question from Xingang Wang
“Thank you for your answer. As it happened, what brought me to this fantastic city and country was my master degree – Engineering at Imperial College: the finest science and engineering university in the world. So, if you need [any] help about the bridge, let me know.
My supplementary question is: it has been leaked from a Hammersmith and Fulham officer that [inaudible] the reassurance from yourself and the Mayor, that the Council is now considering opening the bridge to only foot traffic, cyclists and the buses. Can you confirm or deny this?”
Follow-up answer from Councillor Stephen Cowan, Leader of the Council
“Yeah, I can deny it. I think there’s a problem with leaks, which is, it doesn’t seem like a leak. We work very closely with our team of experts and the Highways department and they are very solidly behind the programme.
The advice the Highways department gave us very early on was that for a long time, the custodians of the bridge had been negligent. And if we just talk about the immediate 8 years prior to when we came into office, there was no comprehensive, structural integrity review of the bridge. And the question that Mr. Wang will know full well, that when you have ancient suspension bridges, they need to be maintained – maintained fully. And the particular difficulty of Hammersmith Bridge is, it is made out of a combination of wood, [wrought?] iron and cast iron. And anybody – even though I, for a short period of time, did metal shop as part of my education – and anybody will tell you that the interesting things about those ancient materials, is they corrode if not looked after properly.
Now, one of the things we get to do as politicians is to ask the simple questions, because we’re not experts in many things, and the officials who work for us, are.
And so it is a great respect that Wesley Harcourt asked that simple question in 2014, which is, could the suspension bridge collapse as we’ve seen others do, such as in Genoa, in Italy. And the answer was, we don’t think so, Councillor. And Wesley and I said, ‘have we checked?’ And the answer was, ‘well, there hasn’t been a check’. In fact, in the previous 8 years, there had been a programme put forward by the Highways officers, to refurbish the bridge, and a significant sum, I think, it was only a million pounds. But the Deputy Leader of the Council cut it to quarter of a million pounds, when she was in her job as the Cabinet Member for the Environment.
And there was little explanation for why that cut had happened: I think it was - it appears to be – an ill-judged view and value for money. As anyone will tell you, who owns any type of structure, they do need to be maintained, particularly if it’s 132 years old; particularly if it’s made out of cast and iron metal and it’s an early and revolutionary piece of technology.”