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Hammersmith Bridge

Volume 661: debated on Thursday 13 June 2019

The maintenance of Hammersmith bridge is a matter for the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Neither the borough nor Transport for London has approached the Department to seek funding to repair the bridge.

I am very disappointed that they have not done so. I understand the temptation for the Government to see this as a local issue, but it is much more than that. Greater London has just 33 major crossings; this one took 20,000 cars and 1,800 buses a day, so its closure for up to three years is catastrophic for residents and businesses, and is causing mayhem in an already congested part of London. I was disappointed to hear what the Minister said about not being approached by the borough or TfL—that needs to change—but the Government also need to show a proper interest, so may I please urge him to look at the matter again?

Transport in London is, of course, devolved to the Mayor of London. I have been astonished and exasperated in just the last couple of weeks in the Department to see how badly run Labour London’s transport is, and I am astonished by the indolence of the Labour London Mayor, Sadiq Khan. Hammersmith bridge is being neglected—my hon. Friend is right about that—by the Mayor, who is asleep on the job.

The Transport Secretary should have done his homework a little better. I have here a copy of my letter to him of 11 April—and his response of 21 May; no urgency there—asking for assistance with funding for Hammersmith bridge, on the reasonable grounds that he had taken £800 million from the subsidy to TfL and the previous Mayor of London had wasted more than £40 million on the garden bridge. Can we stop the party politicking? Will the Secretary of State do his job sensibly and support TfL and Hammersmith Council, which are working together to resolve this matter, instead of grandstanding in this way?

It is a little rich for the hon. Gentleman to refer to party politics. The fact is that Hammersmith bridge has been a project for London since 2015, and the Mayor of London has done nothing about it. The fact is that it is the responsibility of the London borough and Transport for London mechanisms. The hon. Gentleman does not want to admit the facts, but the facts are those.

It is now two months since the bridge closed, and the Thames is uncrossable for a remarkable three and a half-mile stretch. In that time, the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham has not yet even produced a report diagnosing the problems. All that it has done is have a row with Labour-run Transport for London over funding for work when it has not yet worked out what it needs. Will my hon. Friend agree to meet the Mayor of London and the council to bang heads together between the two warring Labour authorities and get the bridge open again?

We often see Labour authorities needing to have their heads banged together, because they are often at war, as they appear to be in this case. It seems to me that banging heads together in regard to this matter would be a good thing, and I will carefully consider my right hon. Friend’s request.