Hammersmith Bridge has been closed to traffic since April 2019 (Picture: PA)
Frustrated Londoners have taken to the River Thames to protest the ongoing ‘inaction’ to repairing Hammersmith Bridge.
The 134-year-old bridge was closed to traffic in April 2019 when cracks appeared in its pedestals.
It was then closed to pedestrians and cyclists in August after a heatwave caused the faults to ‘significantly increase’.
Coinciding with the annual Boat Race on Sunday, 12 boats of protesters donned hard hats and high-vis jackets, and rowed from the traditional start of the race in Putney to the bridge.
The pandemic, combined with uncertainty over the bridge’s safety, resulted in this year’s race being moved to Cambridgeshire.
Mark Lucani, 41, captain of the London Rowing Club, said the bridge’s ongoing closure is a ‘massive blow to everyone’.
He said: ‘Essentially, it was a mark of our frustration around that, coinciding with the Oxford and Cambridge race which is happening today but not on the championship course.
‘We had the message of “let’s get the work done on the bridge, stop politicking and take action”.
‘The bridge has been shut for almost a year now and no physical work has begun yet.’
He added: ‘Every user of the river has felt the negative impact.’
Olympic rower Jess Eddie added: ‘The impact of the broken bridge on British rowing, other water sports and river users has been huge, confining hundreds of boats to a small section of the river.
‘A closed Hammersmith Bridge will stop a number of important river events and races that people train for year-round, some of which have been taking place for over 100 years.’
Julia Watkins, 52, a spokesperson for Hammersmith Bridge SOS, said a 10-minute walk to amenities on the other side of the bridge now takes up to 90 minutes.
She called for the Government to act swiftly, with central government to shoulder most of the cost as the bridge is ‘national infrastructure’.
Ms Watkins said: ‘Not only is a historic part of our nation’s history just lost as the Boat Race seems unlikely to happen at Hammersmith for years to come, there are thousands of ordinary people who are really suffering due to the Government’s inaction to fix a bridge.
‘It’s quite unbelievable that they cannot fix a bridge that is 200 metres long and is a vital transport link for Londoners.’
Responding to the protest, a Department for Transport spokesperson said £4 million has been put towards emergency mitigation work on the bridge.
The DfT said they are in discussions with Hammersmith and Fulham Council over longer-term funding, which it said ‘must be balanced between supporting the project and ensuring fairness for the UK taxpayer’.
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Source by metro.co.uk