Friday, 13 January 2012

Hammersmith Flyover re-opens amid fiery exchanges in Parliament

"Jammersmith" may be no more as the flyover dramatically threw its doors, well, half open late last night to light traffic on one lane and in both directions, in a positive sign that all might not be quite as bad as the doom mongers feared. The rest of the flyover is set to be openned back up over the next four months with drivers continued to be urged to avoid the area if at all possible.

One lane of light traffic will now be permitted in each direction, whilst work continues to strengthen key sections of the flyover. Traffic restrictions will be enforced by a 2.0m (6”6’) width restriction at either end of the flyover to prevent large vehicles such as HGVs and coaches from crossing.

The structural repair works, which TfL now expects to take around four months to complete, will focus on strengthening six of the 16 spans of the structure to ensure that they can carry full traffic loading by the Olympics.

The advice remains for motorists as this work takes place that as the flyover is not fully open they should consider avoiding the area if possible. Transport for London will have signage and traffic management measures in place to help reinforce that.

Once these repair works, which will see new cables installed within the structure to strengthen the flyover, are completed, TfL will be able to reopen the flyover to all traffic, well ahead of the London 2012 Games.

Following the London 2012 Games, TfL will return to the structure to strengthen the remaining ten spans of the flyover, as well as carry out additional work to re-waterproof the entire road deck to complete the permanent repair. This work is expected to take place in a way that will allow as much traffic as possible to use the flyover during the works.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: 

“I made it very clear the Hammersmith Flyover should not be closed for one minute longer than it has to be and this partial reopening will provide some relief for the thousands of motorists and local people whose lives have been disrupted. I can assure those people that I will ensure the team continues to work tirelessly in order to get this vital structure fully operational as soon as possible.”

All good stuff - but there is a twist to this story which has bubbled up over the last 24 hours, with our MP Andy Slaughter launching an attack on the Conservative MP Mary Macleod for holding a meeting about the issue in Hammersmith. Here's the very fiery exchange between the pair from the House of Commons yesterday:

Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): On a point of order, Mr Speaker, of which I have given you and the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod) notice. Hammersmith flyover in my constituency has been closed for three weeks. Although we hope for good news as early as today about the reopening, it is clearly a serious matter for my constituents. The hon. Lady has convened a public meeting—nothing wrong with that—to discuss the matter, but she has advertised and convened it in my constituency. She has invited various public bodies, but not me, to the meeting to discuss these matters—she has not invited me to be on the panel.

This goes beyond the ordinary trespassing that Members sometimes commit. I have never heard of an event of this kind. In reality, it means that the public bodies may not attend, because the meeting is now party political. I ask for your guidance, Mr Speaker. The hon. Lady is a new Member and might not know the protocols of the House as well as others do.

Mr Speaker: I will restrict my understanding thus far, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for notice of his intention to raise the point of order. It will almost not be a matter of order for the Chair, but, reserving my position, I think it only right before I say anything further—I am sure he will accept this—to ask the hon. Member for Brentford and Isleworth (Mary Macleod) to offer her own thoughts, of which I have had some notice, on the Floor of the House.

Mary Macleod (Brentford and Isleworth) (Con): Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. This public meeting is being held purely to help local residents. It is for Transport for London and Hounslow and Hammersmith councils to update local residents and help them. Frankly, that is what I came into politics to do.

I am extremely disappointed that the hon. Member for Hammersmith (Mr Slaughter) has attempted to threaten, intimidate and bully me into doing what he wants and play political games. He knew what was happening—I told him at the earliest opportunity. I invited him to the meeting verbally and in writing. He said initially that he was happy with the plans for the meeting.

I have worked well recently with my Labour Hounslow council and expect to have a very positive working relationship with the new hon. Member for Feltham and Heston (Seema Malhotra). It is really sad that we cannot help our local residents without an hon. Member trying to stop us. We should work together for the good of our local residents and our constituencies.

No love lost there, then, and Ms Macelod quite skillfully presents herself as somehow a wounded party valiantly fighting against the nasty Andy Slaughter - but he does have a point. There is an unwritten rule among MPs that they don't do this sort of thing in each others' areas - and if he hasn't even been invited on to the panel - as the MP for Hammersmith for goodness sakes - you need to ask what the Tories are really up to with the meeting in the first place. It couldn't have anything to do with bolstering Boris, who's taken a hit over this, ahead of an election could it?


  1. Weird.... Surely simple solution, which would have avoided all this argy-bargy would have been for McLeod to have asked Slaughter to be part of the meeting? Organising a meeting in another MPs patch and then not letting him take part does sound like a calculated snub to me. If she really is innocently trying to help, couldn't she have found a church hall in her own constituency? And does she really think that the best way to address this issue is to exclude Slaughter, who - along with your good self - has been the quickest source of accurate information about the flyover crisis, and to be fair to him, has held TfL to account fearlessly over several issues over the last few years.
    I'm afraid your diagnosis of election fever looks depressingly accurate. Otherwise you've got to feel sorry for the folk of Hounslow, whose MP seems to think that the best way to help them to avoid the traffic on the Broadway is to ........come to a meeting in Hammersmith! At least Slaughter knows his patch.....

  2. I'd already sent an email full of criticism to the organisers of the meeting before this post went up. I told them that the meeting was a waste of time, because they were asking for information which TfL clearly didn't have (i.e. exactly when the flyover would re-open). I told them that I thought they were wasting TfL's time. It is now evident that rather than give awkward estimates, TfL has re-opened the flyover as soon as they thought it was safe to do so: congratulations to them for that!

    A chap called Adam Lake emailed me back and told me:

    We have received a lot of phone calls and emails from residents concerned about the disruption who wanted to more information, it was therefore felt that a public meeting would be helpful. The panel will comprise of representatives of TfL and the Council, not engineers working on the flyover. Though the priority here is getting the flyover safe to be used again it is also important to ensure that local people are communicated with properly regarding its progress. I think that a public meeting, which costs absolutely nothing to organise, is a good thing to do and our feedback so far has been positive."

    I responded with the following points:

    "1) A public meeting might not cost anything in monetary terms, but it does cost the time of people at TfL (which will either be charged to TfL or be lost elsewhere).
    "2) Whilst I am aware that the meeting will not include engineers working on the flyover, the information about accurate timescales will ultimately have to come from them. These timescales will not come from the non-engineering managers at TfL, who won't know anything more than the engineers have told them.
    "3) Local people are being communicated to very well by TfL, who have issued detailed press releases regarding the problems surrounding the bridge. These press releases have been very honest - to the point that TfL have admitted that they don't know when the bridge will re-open. TfL have also sent emails to everyone registered with them (not just those signed up for updates). Even Boris has given a statement about the bridge, as has Peter Hendy. I'm not sure what else you're hoping to get out of them!"

  3. Ms Macleod says this re Mr Slaughter:

    "I told him at the earliest opportunity. I invited him to the meeting verbally and in writing. He said initially that he was happy with the plans for the meeting."

    So one or other or both of them is a big fat liar with their pants on fire. But on this evidence, hard to say which.

  4. Very hard, although I'm betting it's Slaughter. As much as I dislike the Tories, Slaughter seems a bit of an untrustworthy type...

  5. If you want to know who's behind this outrageous breach of constitutional protocol, I'd watch the actual Point of Order in Parliament.

    Starts at 15:32pm.

    And guess who's sitting right next to Mary McLeod as she professes her innocence?

    That's right: Greg Hands, who seems to have nothing better to do than spend his entire life Twittering vicious slurs about random Labour MPs and creating trouble.

  6. FFS, they're all as bad as each other!

  7. Hopefully somebody will be on hand to guide Mary McLeod to Hammersmith as her knowledge of West London isn't very strong, just as you would expect from a politician who professed her undying devotion to the Isle of Skye when she was hoping to be elected there, before being parachuted into this area.

  8. Hands is MP for Fulham, so has a legitimate interest in what happens to the Hammersmith flyover.