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Our Letter To The Taskforce

Updated: Nov 28, 2020

20 Sep 2020


Dear Baroness Vere

I write as the Chair of the Steering Group set up by Barnes and Hammersmith residents to

reflect the real hardships being suffered by businesses, school children, elderly people

and others as a consequence of the complete closure of Hammersmith Bridge. We are

non-party political and do not presume to deal with the various engineering issues or

suggestions as to the right solutions. Our role is solely to highlight the plight of the

community which formerly relied on the bridge and to push for a solution. As I am sure

you are aware, the bridge was used by around 23,000 vehicles a day and, once it was

closed to traffic, by 16,000 pedestrians and cyclists daily.

We were very pleased that the Secretary of State announced that he was setting up a

Task Force under your chairmanship to solve the problem. In particular, he noted that the

problems had gone on for far too long and that the issues needed to be fixed speedily to

alleviate the unacceptable difficulties we are facing. That announcement was very

welcome as it appears to us that the issue has been batted around between the local

Councils and TfL for months and years with little concern for the residents and businesses

on both sides of the bridge in the meantime.

Now this initiative is under way, we urge you to address the problems of the bridge very

speedily and we challenge you with a deadline of the autumn clock change for a

temporary crossing (25th October). The reason for that is, I am sure, obvious: 4,000

school children need to cross the river every day to get to school and many of them are

cycling on very busy roads, along unlit paths or through Dukes Meadow, an area with high

crime figures. After the clock change, much of this cycling will be in darkness with all the

safety implications that that will bring. Let me also bring you the words of one little girl,

words that are very typical of many stories we have been told:

“I am six. I’m really annoyed because we used to walk 20 minutes to our school north of

the bridge. Now the journey takes at least an hour. We leave at 7am to cycle to Putney

Bridge, it’s a bumpy path and it’s dark. We have to take two tubes. Often I am late for

school. We’ve tried the bus but there are only three an hour, so it’s hard to get on them,

anyway it takes about 75 minutes in the bad traffic. I am really sad because we can’t play

with friends after school or at weekends any more. My mum is always worried. It’s just

too difficult to get anywhere with the bridge closed.”

We would like to offer you as much help as possible and have two propositions:

1. we would be very happy to make a presentation to the task force setting out the

information we have gathered about the impact on the community, including on

businesses, a number of whom are now talking about having to close because of severe

drops in footfall and acute difficulties in getting their employees to and from their place of

work.

2. we would be keen to have a representative of the Steering Group on your task force

to help with local knowledge. Failing that, we would want to set up an effective liaison

system with your task force to ensure that (i) the solutions you propose are acceptable to

and appropriate for the community and (ii) to help inform residents of your actions. We

are in touch with over a thousand people and have a web site about to launch which will

both collect and disseminate information, a facility which could be helpful to you.

We cannot stress enough the urgency of getting a temporary crossing of some sort up and

running. Whether this be a ferry, a chain ferry or a Bailey bridge - we represent people

who need this now, allowing time later to resolve the longer term issues. We know there

will be many individuals who will lobby you with their particular engineering solution. We

have no such axe to grind, we merely know the impact on the lives of people in Barnes

and Hammersmith, but also much more widely along a huge stretch of the river due to the

appalling traffic congestion and pollution which is a consequence of this closure.

London is a great world city, but not if it is divided in half by a derelict bridge which has

been neglected for years by the local authority.

We look forward to hearing from you and stand ready to assist in any way we can.

Yours sincerely


Helen Pennant Rea

Chair

Hammersmith Bridge SOS Steering Group

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