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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 6 March 2021

Thames ferry service set up while historic Hammersmith Bridge close to collapse

Pedestrians and cyclists must pay to use service after cracks were found in the 134-year-old structure

A warning sign is seen attached to Hammersmith Bridge which was closed to traffic in 2019. Reuters.
A warning sign is seen attached to Hammersmith Bridge which was closed to traffic in 2019. Reuters.

A ferry service for pedestrians and cyclists will operate on the River Thames after Hammersmith Bridge was closed amid fears of a catastrophic collapse.

Over 800 people an hour will be able use the crossing once it is operational, according to Transport for London (TfL).

The service is being launched to combat congestion after the Victorian-era bridge in west London, which connects Hammersmith to Barnes, was shut due to safety fears.

The service will operate from 6am to 10pm on week days, as well as an ‘off-peak service’ at weekends, with fares likely to cost £1.55 ($2.17) per trip. This has angered some local residents who say they were promised it would be free to use.

Two operators have submitted bids to run the service, including City Cruises and Uber Boat by Thames Clippers. A winner will be announced in March, once funding from the Government has been secured, Tfl said.

The transport authority said additional time requested by the bidders “means it is unlikely that the ferry will begin operating before the summer”.

David Rowe, TfL's Head of Major Projects Sponsorship, said: “We are working at pace to get a temporary ferry operating to ease the upheaval and inconvenience caused by the closure of Hammersmith Bridge.

“This ferry will restore the vital cross-river connection between Hammersmith and Barnes, and allow repair work to be done on Hammersmith Bridge at the same time. We look forward to appointing one of these shortlisted operators in the coming weeks and then having people on board boats as soon as possible.”

Built in 1887, Hammersmith Bridge has been closed to motor traffic since April 2019 after cracks appeared in its structure.

In August 2020, it was closed to pedestrians and cyclists and the river traffic beneath it was halted after a sudden increase in the size of the fractures led to fears that it could collapse without warning.

The ferry would not hinder any repairs on the bridge, TfL said, though it is unclear when any fix will begin due to a lack of funding for the project, estimated to cost up to £163 million ($230 million).

As a result of the closure, the annual Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge universities, which usually passes under the bridge, will take place outside of London this year for the first time since the Second World War.

Updated: February 23, 2021 08:41 PM

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