Richmond MP Sarah Olney and council leader Gareth Roberts have written to the leader of the Hammersmith Bridge taskforce urging a change of position after this week's public meeting.
Richmond Liberal Democrats are calling for Baroness Charlotte Vere to change her position and "front-load" Government funding to allow the stabilisation work and ferry service procurement process to begin.
Richmond Council's virtual public meeting about Hammersmith Bridge this week was attended by 700 concerned residents. (A recording of the meeting is available here, and the slides are available here.) Residents' lives have been severely disrupted and they had many good questions about what is being done to resolve the situation.
The communities most impacted by the bridge's closure are on the south side of the river, but the bridge is the responsibility of Hammersmith and Fulham council, who do not represent them. The Government is saying it will provide funding only if supported by a local contribution. Agreeing funding for the repairs continues to be the biggest hurdle, with Sarah and Gareth working closely with all agencies involved to see what can be done to resolve this.
Following the meeting they wrote to Transport Minister Baroness Vere (pictured above during the virtual public meeting) calling on the Government to unlock the funds needed to award a ferry contract now and to immediately commence the stabilisation work necessary to allow foot and cycle traffic over the bridge again by "front-loading" the money from the Department for Transport.
In the letter Sarah and Gareth say: "We would like to emphasise the importance, in our view, of urgent action. Our residents have been cut off from essential services, from their schools, workplaces and doctors, and are facing unacceptably lengthy journeys and congestion to carry out their daily lives. It is immensely frustrating for us that the question of funding should have reached an impasse that we have no power to resolve, while our residents bear the brunt of the consequences of the closure.
"We urge you to allow funds to be authorised, as soon as practically possible, so that progress can be made."
Following last night's meeting about #hammersmithbridge @Gareth_Roberts_ and I have written to @CharlotteV urging her to change her position and 'front-load' Government funding to allow the stabilisation work and ferry service procurement process to begin pic.twitter.com/qjGTz0sJvy— Sarah Olney (@sarahjolney1) October 29, 2020
Baroness Vere insisted in the meeting the funding would not be forthcoming without a contribution from Hammersmith and Fulham Council.
In their letter Gareth and Sarah noted: "It is clear that no London Borough, even in the best of times, would have the funds available to fix the bridge, and that, therefore, recourse to central government funds is inevitable. The demands of the pandemic and accompanying lockdown have heavily depleted local government funds. It is not for us to demand a contribution to the costs of fixing the bridge from Hammersmith and Fulham in any event, but we are extremely mindful of the current challenges."
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Media coverage of the meeting:
- OnLondon: Hammersmith Bridge: Council must share repair costs says minister, announcing six year wait for full re-opening
- New Civil Engineer: Hammersmith Bridge will stay closed to motorists for six more years