Tory Councillors Slam Hammersmith Bridge Toll Plans

Say it will be a £3 daily tax for many during the cost-of-living crisis

Hammersmith Bridge. Picture: Richmond Council

Tory councillors in Wandsworth in have slammed Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s plans to charge drivers £3 to use Hammersmith Bridge claiming it will be “sad” for drivers hit by the cost-of-living crisis. The Labour-run council wants to introduce a toll charge once the bridge reopens, arguing it’s the best option financially and for the environment.

The Grade II listed suspension bridge closed in August 2020 after small cracks in the cast-iron structure expanded in a heatwave. It reopened to walkers and cyclists in July 2021.

The first phase of fixing the bridge is underway, with £8.9 million already spent on stabilising micro-fractures in the pedestals. A two-tier crossing could be installed temporarily above the historic landmark to allow cars and walkers to cross the River Thames while repairs are ongoing.

A toll gate could be installed on the bridge once it reopens to traffic. But Conservative councillors for Wandsworth want Hammersmith and Fulham Council to axe the proposed charge.

A petition to axe the charge has been launched by Wandsworth Conservatives, who claim the closure of the bridge in 2019 has put extra “pressure” on busy roads like Upper Richmond Road, Putney Hill and the High Street.

Councillor Steffi Sutters said, “Labour has run Hammersmith Council for many years and failed to keep the bridge in good condition leading to its closure in 2019. It is sad that during a cost-of-living crisis they feel justified in proposing a £3 per crossing charge which will doubtlessly most impact those who can least afford it.”

Putney’s Conservative Parliamentary spokesperson Lee Roberts said, “It is disgraceful that the Labour-run council is proposing a £3 charge on using the Bridge each way. Why should a parent have to pay £12 a day just to take their children to school?”

He added, “For local businesses, this is another daily tax at a time of unprecedented global inflation. The Government and TfL have honoured their commitments to funding the repairs on the bridge, now Hammersmith Council needs to show responsibility and pay their share.”

Hammersmith and Fulham’s cabinet member for Public Realm Sharon Holder said, “Hammersmith Bridge is a historic Grade II listed bridge. It’s vastly more expensive than any other London bridge to fix. It’s one of the most expensive bridges to repair in Britain.

“If Putney Conservatives cared about the people of Putney they would be lobbying the Conservative government to pay for the £163m bridge rather than playing cheap politics. It’s insightful they’ve chosen cheap politics.”

Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s leader Stephen Cowan previously said a toll charge would be the “greener and safest way” of moving ahead with the plans, which have been put forward to central government. He added, “It would charge the users of the bridge and therefore bring about the cost being to the people who most benefit from it.”

The council’s cabinet agreed a procurement plan for the full restoration of the bridge, which is expected to cost £130 million in total, on 10 October. Councillors also agreed to spend £5 million on the next phase of engineering works.

Two-thirds of the funds are expected to come from Transport for London and the Department for Transport, according to a report by the council’s assistant director of environment, special projects and highways, Ian Hawthorn.

Hammersmith Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the world, built in 1887. The structure is made up of wood and wrought iron with the suspension held together by cast iron pedestals. Hammersmith and Fulham Council was contacted for comment.

Hannah Neary - Local Democracy Reporter

October 27, 2022