Repair work on the currently closed Hammersmith Bridge in London is set to take around three years.
Following detailed investigation by a team of world-leading specialist engineers, Transport for London (TfL) and Hammersmith & Fulham Council have agreed the works needed to repair Hammersmith Bridge. The first stage of the work has now begun and TfL has provided £25million to pay for it.
TfL and the council are continuing to explore the most appropriate funding for the next phase of construction, ahead of the planned award of a contract for the next stage of the works next spring.
The work is expected to take approximately three years.
The bridge was shut in April after several hairline micro-fractures were discovered in the cast iron casing around the pedestals that have held the suspension chains in place since 1887.
Cast iron can shatter - one reason why this is the only bridge of its kind in the world - so the micro-fractures were a huge worry. The council immediately closed the bridge for safety reasons.
Once work is completed, the refurbishment will enable cars and buses (including the heavier electric single-deckers) to cross the bridge. But to prevent future damage, TfL will continue to limit the flow of buses on and off the bridge.
"Hammersmith Bridge is not only a beautiful and important example of innovative 19th-century British engineering heritage, it's also a vital 21st-century river-crossing," said Cllr Stephen Cowan, Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham.
He continued: "It can be made fit for purpose for generations to come. That's what we're doing and we're focussed on getting the bridge reopened to cars and buses as quickly as possible.
"This comprehensive structural review was the first in decades. It has shown significant failings throughout the 132-year-old suspension structure that, if allowed to continue unchecked, would have been a threat to public safety.
"I am grateful to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and TfL for their help with designing this scheme, and for working closely with us to get the bridge fully and quickly restored.
"I'm also grateful to Cllr Gareth Roberts, the Leader of Richmond Council, and his team for their constructive approach to getting the bridge re-opened as quickly as possible and doing everything we can together to minimise disruption to local residents and businesses."
Early stage estimates indicate the work could cost £120m, although as this is purely early estimates it includes a contingency due to the unknowns, complexities and challenges inherent in repairing such an aged, Historic England listed structure. Engineers will continue to refine this estimate as the project progresses.
Garry Sterritt, TfL's Head of Asset Investment, said: "This bridge is not only a historic and iconic structure in west London, but an important transport link - connecting people across the river and supporting local economies. We're committed to supporting the next stages of the project, and will work with Hammersmith & Fulham Council to identify the best way to pay for the later stages of the refurbishment."
Cllr Gareth Roberts, Leader of Richmond Council, added: "We now know that Hammersmith Bridge needs serious restoration work following many years of heavy traffic usage. And I am pleased that Hammersmith & Fulham Council and TfL have found a way forward in funding part of the repair work. Over 2,000 local people and businesses from Richmond upon Thames told us in a recent survey that they are keen for the bridge to be repaired and reopened as soon as possible and whilst people will have to bear with the situation for a little while longer, the works will ensure that the bridge is future-proofed for many more decades.
"We will continue to ensure that local people are updated regularly on the work, including the continued commitment from TfL to reviewing the local transport network, to ensuring that any impacts on our borough is mitigated."