Hammersmith Bridge is closed to pedestrians and river traffic because of an increased risk to public safety due to a sudden deterioration in key parts of the suspension structure.
The bridge, a major piece of London’s infrastructure, was closed on 13 August, and specialist engineers have been undertaking 24/7 monitoring of the structural integrity of the bridge using an extensive network of sensors on the 19th century structure.
The deterioration in the structure was exacerbated by the recent heatwave which caused cracks to significantly increase – despite measures taken to mitigate the heat.
The bridge will remain closed until the engineers are confident that it is safe to re-open to pedestrians and river traffic.
It means that pedestrians and cyclists must now cross the river elsewhere, while all river traffic under the bridge will also be stopped – including the pedestrian walkways under Hammersmith Bridge – while engineers examine the extent of the damage.
Stephen Cowan, leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, said: “Safety is the number one priority. I’m absolutely sure that we averted a catastrophe by closing this 19th century suspension bridge to motor vehicles last year.
“We have some of the best engineers in the world working on this scheme. They advise we now face a similar dilemma. I appreciate how inconvenient this will be to thousands of people on both sides of the river and I am sorry about that, but we must follow the engineers’ advice.
“We will update everyone as soon as engineers have investigated the scale of the recent damage. I have instructed them to find a plan to safely reopen it as quickly as they can.”
The bridge was designed and built in the 19th century by Sir Joseph Bazalgette. It was opened by the Prince of Wales in 1887.
“The bridge had been badly maintained for many years,” said Cowan. “The structural integrity review quickly began to find decades of unchecked corrosion riddled throughout. It found that important mechanisms on the bridge had seized up years earlier causing the suspension structure to cease to operate as it had been designed to - causing other problems elsewhere in the machinery. Last year, using the latest technology, it discovered dangerous micro-fractures in the cast iron pedestals that hold the suspension structure in place.
“These unchecked structural failures compromised the flexibility of the suspension chains over previous years and caused the micro fractures.
“Today’s closure shows how much more work is required to get this beautiful bridge fully restored. And we’re – once again – calling on the government to fund the final phases of the restoration work,” added Cowan.
“We remain determined that this beautiful bridge will be fit for purpose for generations to come and we’ll continue to do everything within our power to deliver on that.”