Could the answer to Hammersmith Bridge's accessibility woes be permanent pedestrianisation and a passenger ferry service? That's what a local architectural firm is suggesting.
The 132-year-old-crossing in west London has been closed to vehicles since April 2019, when hairline fractures were discovered in its cast iron structure.
Rather than repairing the Victorian bridge so that cars and buses can use it again, The Manser Practice — located on Hammersmith Bridge Road — has put forward the idea of pedestrianising the bridge for good. Cycle lanes, pedestrian paths and a park would be installed on the bridge while beneath it, ferries would to and fro between Hammersmith and central London.
Says The Manser Practice:
The river boat service will also provide room for cycles to encourage commuters to Central London to use the service instead of the tube or rail network.
That's not the plan TfL is currently going with. As City Metric writes, TfL doesn't want to 'lose' the bridge, and has pumped £25m towards toughening it up for traffic once more (even though it's not responsible for the bridge). But there's still a shortfall of about £95m; the estimated repairs would cost around £120m, and between them, TfL and Hammersmith & Fulham Council are scratching their heads.
A mooted £5m temporary bridge already appears to have been nixed by the council — so perhaps The Manser Practice's seemingly left-field plans are not altogether unrealistic? Except. There's absolutely no cost estimate for the project, which for all intents and purposes is a marketing stunt, not a serious proposal. And though pedestrianising the bridge might be cost effective enough — there would be major logistical and financial connotations for TfL, who'd presumably be in charge of running the new ferry service and rerouting vehicles permanently. (And yes, traffic would still need to use another bridge, just as it is right now.)
The take-away from all this? As London's grand old crossings crumble, we need to think up ambitious ways they can be repurposed, or sensitively replaced (not demolished). Ultimately, though, heading towards a carless capital might be the only thing that will have the required effect.