Delayed Inspections 'Holding Up' Hammersmith Bridge Repair

Claim made that council's engineering team slow in carrying out check

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A report in the New Civil Engineer details claims that delayed engineering inspections are causing further hold ups to progress on the reopening of Hammersmith Bridge.

The specialist journal quotes information received from local campaign group HammersmithBridgeSOS during correspondence in which they questioned the length of time needed to carry out the inspections.

According to the report outstanding checks include inspections of the chain knuckles in the bridge’s anchor chain as well as an independent evaluation of previous inspections on the bridge’s pedestals.

These checks will not be completed until the end of July and only then could the current assessment that the bridge could suffer a catastrophic collapse be reassessed. At this point a partial reopening of the bridge, including to river traffic passing underneath, could be considered but it is not known why these checks have taken so long.

A letter from Hammersmith & Fulham chief officer for public realm Bram Kainth to HammermsithBridgeSOS states, “I would like to assure you that we are actively progressing all the necessary measures to allow the Case for Continued Safe Operation (CCSO) to be reviewed to allow the safe controlled movement and/or safe opening of the bridge to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic as soon as possible.

“All safety engineering checks are being undertaken in parallel and we continue to explore ways to compress the programme where appropriate. Following the completion of the previous investigative works, the portacabins and generators have been removed from the site as the site has been handed back from Keir to F M Conway who are keeping the bridge secure pending the next set of necessary checks.

“The design consultants along with a specialist contractor have been commissioned to undertake detailed inspections of the chain knuckles in the chain tunnels. These site works, along with the Cat 3 check of Mott MacDonald’s pedestal analysis and software analysis of the residual manufacturing stresses, are scheduled to be completed by the end of July 2021.

“Subject to the satisfactory outcome of these safety engineering checks, the CCSO for the bridge may be reviewed to potentially allow limited controlled use and/or opening of the bridge for pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic.”

Even when these checks are completed the council believes the bridge “will remain a sub-standard structure until stabilisation works are completed” and that “indefinite use of temporary measures is not acceptable”.

HammermsithBridgeSOS committee member Nigel Edwards said that he is “dismayed to hear that there is still further engineering analysis and checks that need to be undertaken on the bridge.

“We know that an independent level 3 check was required by Xanta on the Mott calculations, but this was stated as a requirement in November 2020 and so we would have hoped that has been done by now”.

“It really does seem that they are going as slow as possible”.

An H&F Council spokesperson denied that any time is being lost adding, "The pedestal investigations were finished at the end of March. At that point a Cat 3 investigation was procured in line with the CCSO Board requirement. The Cat 3 investigation not only reviews the original Motts report but takes into account the findings of the western-side pedestal investigations.

"The other two investigations into the chain knuckle and residual stresses are being carried out in parallel within a shorter time frame.

"Furthermore we are committed to progressing towards the bridge re-opening with pace. That is why we have commissioned and funded the Foster + Partners/ COWI proposal which potentially saves £40M and three years of works. We are now developing the business case along with TFL and the DfT."

The Department for Transport (DfT) wants the council to consider a rapid partial reopening of the bridge and cites reports from Aecom and University of Cambridge professor Norman Fleck which describe the closure as possibly being “overly cautious” and suggesting that reopening for non-motor traffic could be achieved with minimal work.

However, Hammersmith Bridge’s Board for the Case for the Continued Safe Operation (CCSO) which includes engineers working on the project has concluded that “the public cannot be allowed to use the bridge until it is repaired because it has proved to be unstable and still contains unknowable features”.

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May 7, 2021

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