Friday, 6 January 2012

Hammersmith Flyover: Boris to the rescue

The Mayor of London, back from the Italian ski slopes, visited the A4 Hammersmith flyover today to inspect work being carried out to repair one of the most vital stretches of road in the capital as soon as possible.

The complex flyover was forced to close due to water damage that has corroded and weakened the cables that give the bridge its strength. It had been thought that it would be up to ten years before any major work was required on the flyover, however recent maintenance checks showed work would be required much earlier than anticipated.

A detailed investigation was launched immediately and a team of 80 Transport for London engineers, contractors, and leading structural engineering experts have been working nonstop on site and within the structure throughout the Christmas and New Year period.

The engineers have inserted cameras into the structure of the flyover at 100 different locations to assess key sections of the cables it contains. Today they told the Mayor that investigations of the extent of the damage to those cables must continue for a further week before engineers will be in a position to decide whether it is strong enough to allow its reopening even to light traffic.

However they confirmed that preparatory work can begin ahead of the installation of new cables within the structure that will strengthen the flyover and allow it to take full vehicle loading again. They also confirmed that the flyover will be repaired and fully available to traffic before the London 2012 Games.

I understand from a local source, however, that there is some doubt about that behind the scenes and in any case this blows a very big hole in the spin being put on things by the Council recently, about the flyover being open by the 9th Jan. It also seems the BBC were a little quick to apologise for their claim that it would be closed until Feb - the Olympics are of course not until summer, after February when they were predicting it would be shut until.

This really does have the makings of an almighty mess for the Games, let alone the continued gridlock in and around Hammersmith.

One of the Mayor’s chief concerns has been that TfL do everything possible to keep disruption for Londoners and people passing through the area to the minimum. Today the team on site outlined the measures they have put in place. They include:
  • Traffic police rapid response units on placed on permanent standby in the area so they are ready to unblock any incidents or clear accidents as soon as possible; 
  • Local traffic diversions, along with Variable Messaging Signs – including on Highways Agency roads – advising drivers to avoid the area as far out as the M25 and M4 from the flyover. All signage, alerts and traffic mitigation plans are kept under nearly hourly review to minimise disruption or give drivers the maximum opportunity to avoid the area; 
  • The re-phasing of hundreds of traffic signals in the area to reduce disruption as much as possible and ease traffic flow; 
  • The cancellation of any non urgent roadworks in the local area and a daily review of whether other works should be suspended. Works cancelled have included previously planned works at Earl's Court Road, Cromwell Road and the Westway; 
  • The creation of an extra lane on Talgarth Road to help minimise the impact of the closure; 
  • Close liaison with the relevant local authorities to keep local people, businesses and organisations informed of the ongoing work taking place;
  • Plans to divert traffic from the M4 to other routes if necessary; 
  • Working with boroughs on the efficient management of their roads to help cope with the closure
However, until TfL can ensure the flyover is safe to be reopened to traffic, the advice to motorists continues to be avoid the area if at all possible, or if you have to drive allow more time for your journey.

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London said:
“I want to reassure the thousands of motorists and local people who are suffering traffic hell that the flyover will not be closed one day longer than necessary. Safety has to be the number one priority but Transport for London will reopen this vital stretch of road as soon as they are able to do so. One thing I can assure Londoners of is that a plan is being finalised within the next few days and work is already beginning on strengthening the flyover so that it is fully operational well ahead of the 2012 Games.”
1700 UPDATE - The Evening Standard appears to have an exclusive insight into the realistic likely opening schedule, and it isn't good news. Talking to Peter Dominiczak, the Standard's City Hall Correspondent, Chris Burgoyne, a reader in concrete structures at Cambridge university, said drivers could still face months of disruption.

Mr Burgoyne, who was drafted in to assess the damage, said:
"It could be months before the bridge is completely reopened. It is likely that they will say the bridge can re-open with one lane in each direction taking light traffic only - no trucks. But it is possible that motorists will suffer a number of months more of disruption."
While Andy Slaughter has posted this column on his website in which he also throws doubt on the official version and argues that the real problem is that TfL is basically unaccountable to anyone.

SATURDAY UPDATE - LBC Radio reported Tom Cheal has uploaded a video which he took while accompanying Boris' visit to the site yesterday which gives you a visual insight into what the problems are and what's proposed to be done about it. LBC are really quite good at this, and last helped me in May last year in the wake of the Hammersmith bus station stabbing with a recording of a witness statement. Well worth listening to.


  1. So Boris comes along, has a butcher's then says that the people who are trying their best to mend it as quickly as possible will do their best to mend it as quickly as possible. What is the Latin for "Chocolate Teapot"?

  2. Hmm. It best had be finished by the olympics. Can't be doing with any more traffic chaos disrupting my wedding...

    (Yes, I'm a fool and am getting married during the olympics, in which I have little interest. Go figure...)

  3. TOM, what did you expect? For him to levitate a new flyover in place using the power of his mind.

  4. Relying on the power of Boris's mind is a particularly bad strategy.

    Anyway - I still don't get the fuss about the s*dding Olympics. Apparently things that have been rubbish for years, but Londoners just had to deal with, suddenly have to be all spick and span. What nonsense.

  5. Dear anonymous.... Hardly. I just know that if I was performing urgent and complicated works on a a faulty flyover, the last thing I would want was an apres-ski visit from a buffoon whose only purpose was to make political capital. And fatuous remarks.

  6. Ain't they heard of WD40 and a spot of ready mix? Anyway, Boris has to be able to get to his old school pond (AKA Eton's Olympic rowing centre at Dorney). 'Spect it's a tad inconvenient for HRH when one has to vencha into tine from Windsah!

  7. Tom,

    And I am sure that you would be the first one to complain that he never paid the problem any attention too. I reckon he can't win with you.

  8. Dear anonymous,
    Nothing slips under your radar, eh? I'm rumbled. I'll admit it - I'm seriously thinking of voting for Ken. My oyster card certainly wants me to.....

  9. The bridge is hardly Boris Johnson's fault (he wasn't even created when the bridge was built, and it didn't start rusting in 2008) I do predict that it's going to cause him some real problems in the Mayoral Elections if TfL don't sort it out sharpish.

    Any sign that the bridge isn't going to be fixed in time for the Olympics (the new suggestion from the anonymous made-up source at "H&F News") then that's going to be big trouble. But even just a few months' disruption is going to cause him problems. He doesn't want to be ailienating car users alongside bus and underground users.

    All he really needs is another big indicent on the tubes (like the day when half of the network stopped due to a series of unfortunate events) and he's going to be a bit buggered. And, to be honest, if his hopes are pinned upon the tube working properly then things are looking grim.

    This election could be won purely on transport. Boris may be outed because of a series of problems which aren't really much to do with him. But then, that's politics... Every now and then people need a bit of change. Maybe the stress of the Olympics is bringing that forward.

  10. I wonder if there is anything in the "it's going to be shut until the Olympics" story. I expect all of London's raised roadways and flyovers will be getting the once over in coming weeks and months.

  11. "The bridge is hardly Boris Johnson's fault (he wasn't even created when the bridge was built, and it didn't start rusting in 2008)"

    No, but the flyover was built during the latter stages of the MacMillan years. It was also dogged with controversy. Ernest Marples anyone?

  12. Peter Hendy from TFL said on BBC radio 94.9 that it may open to "some" traffic in the next few days.

  13. traffivc there is nightmare they are so lazy to do it quick they just don;t care about people we;re just the numbers