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C. Vere letter to HBSOS re Funding 1 June 2021

Charlotte Vere has written to us following the announcement of TfL's funding package today to reiterate the Government's commitment to reopen Hammersmith Bridge to all users including motor vehicles:

As the chair of the Hammersmith Bridge Taskforce since September 2020, I have been working with all stakeholders to find both a temporary and long-term solution to the closure of Hammersmith Bridge. Since the establishment of the Taskforce the Government has provided funding for a temporary TfL-run ferry service, funded blast cleaning and visual inspection of the two western pedestals giving the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham (LBHF) a better understanding of the overall condition of the bridge, and supported efforts to increase the number of river transits. It is now right for LBHF to consider limited and controlled reopening to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic, once final checks have been completed in June, and progress to the next phase of works to stabilise the structure. In time, we want to see the bridge reopened to all users, including motor vehicles.

I am writing to inform you that as part of the Transport for London (TfL) Extraordinary Funding and Finance Agreement announced today, and given the extraordinary circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has set out its plans to contribute up to 1/3 of the total funding requirement for the Hammersmith Bridge project. This is subject to a commitment from TfL and LBHF to do the same. In line with other infrastructure projects that Government has financially supported, LBHF will remain responsible for the overall costs of the project, as part of developing a business case for its preferred solution to repairs.

For your information, the conditions of funding set out in the TfL extraordinary deal are:

i. The Government, TfL and LBHF must scrutinise and agree the cost of the project – meaning we all need to continually scrutinise costs and work together to identify cost savings on LBHF’s preferred engineering option. The Department is also considering options for an independent assessment of costs.

ii. Each party agrees to pay a share of the cost. Repair costs are to be led by LBHF; the Government will not directly contribute more than 1/3 of the costs – meaning we need a commitment from LBHF that it will contribute at least 1/3 for the lifetime of the project, from now until it is fully reopened to all users. This funding does not need to be committed as one lump sum but ahead of each tranche of works.

iii. That the independent Board responsible for the Case for Continued Safe Operation, reporting to LBHF, will conduct a new assessment for controlled and limited reopening of the bridge to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic once further investigations and report validations are completed at the end of June – meaning it is now right for LBHF to consider limited and controlled reopening to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic and progress to the next phase of works to stabilise the structure. I recognise the work Hammersmith Bridge SOS is doing to raise awareness of the challenges being faced by residents due to the closure of Hammersmith Bridge; I hope you will agree with me that this is a significant step forward for the project. I have written to Councillor Cowan, the leader of LBHF, stressing that we must make rapid progress to ensure the permanent reopening of the bridge to pedestrians, cyclists and river traffic, and the best way to achieve that is to complete the stabilisation works as soon as possible. I have also clearly laid out that LBHF has several actions to complete before Government funding will be released. These are as follows:

a) LBHF has determined its preferred engineering option for Stabilisation and undertaken the relevant independent validation.

b) LBHF has made a formal commitment to provide its 1/3 contribution to the Stabilisation work and taken the expected steps to secure this contribution.

c) LBHF has submitted a satisfactory Outline Business Case for its preferred approach to Stabilisation works to my Department, in line with Her Majesty’s Treasury’s Green Book.

This funding announcement reaffirms our commitment to supporting LBHF in finding a solution to reopening Hammersmith Bridge to all users safely as quickly as possible. In parallel with LBHF addressing its actions as set out above, the most important next step is for the Government, TfL and LBHF to agree a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on our agreed next steps and respective funding contributions. The Government remains committed to finding a solution to reopen Hammersmith Bridge to all users, including motor vehicles.

Baroness Vere of Norbiton Transport Minister for Roads, Buses and Places Great Minster House 33 Horseferry Road London SW1P 4DR 03003303000

2021_06_01 Letter to HBSOS from BCV
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