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Drivers face daily toll threat under Hammersmith Bridge privatisation plans

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Part-privatising Hammersmith Bridge is being considered to pay for repairing the south-west London crossing over the River Thames – with work finally scheduled to begin in October.

Thousands of drivers risk being slapped with a daily toll to private investors who may fund the bridge’s long-awaited refurbishment.

Officials are consulting on how to fund a £130m “stabilisation and strengthening process” to reopen the one of the world’s oldest mechanical suspension bridges. It has been closed to vehicles for more than three years.

Equity and debt investors are being invited to lodge “expressions of interest” by Hammersmith & Fulham council, according to a Government filing published this week.

Groundwork to facilitate the long-awaited repair of the bridge will formally begin in October, it added.

The prospect of private investors being brought in to pay for the works increases the risk of the thousands of Londoners being slapped with a toll every day to use the 19th century bridge, local MP Sarah Olney said.

The 135-year-old crossing, a crucial plank of south-west London’s road network, has been closed to traffic since being declared unsafe in April 2019. Prior to its closure, some 22,000 crossed the bridge every day.

The closure followed an inspection by engineers, which discovered so-called microfractures as a result of decades of unchecked corrosion that is riddled throughout the suspension structure.

Unlike many of London’s other bridges across the River Thames, the crossing is owned by the local council rather than Transport for London. Hammersmith & Fulham does not have sufficient funds to pay for the necessary repairs.

The situation descended into farce last year as the bridge was reopened to pedestrians and cyclists just months after millions of pounds was spent choosing a river ferry operator to run services between the north and south banks.

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2022/05/26/drivers-face-daily-toll-threat-hammersmith-bridge-privatisation/