Hammersmith Bridge (Supplementary) [1]

Session date: 
July 18, 2019
Question By: 
Tony Arbour
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Tony Arbour AM (Deputy Chairman):  Can I ask you, Mr Mayor, if you realise how disappointed residents of west London have been by the fact that TfL and you have not acted strategically on this matter and have deferred to the interests of a single borough on this?  The view that is taken is that TfL is a strategic body that acts in the interests of Londoners, particularly when more than one borough is involved.  It is only today in your answer to Assembly Member Devenish that we have heard that it is your intention to see that the bridge or something is opened on that stretch of the river to cater for all traffic.  For three months, we have been in limbo about this particular thing.


Do you not think that under those circumstances it is right for the Mayor, acting as a strategic authority for London, to be taking control of this matter and not hiding behind the matter of how the thing should be financed with a single borough?

Supplementary To: 


Hammersmith Bridge (Supplementary) [1]

Hammersmith Bridge (Supplementary) [1]

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Chair, I do not accept the criticism in the question from the Deputy Chairman.  I am aware from a meeting yesterday with the Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council of the party-political games being played by Conservatives in that part of London.  I have seen ‑‑


Tony Arbour AM (Deputy Chairman):  There are no party politics from me on this matter, Mr Mayor.  I have asked you at successive meetings of the Assembly precisely about this point, simply your strategic role, nothing to do with the borough.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Shall I answer the second question or the first question?


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  No, Assembly Member Arbour, we had a first question and then you have just had a second.  Can we have an answer to the first and the second before another question?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  That is the first question.  I was told in no uncertain terms by the Leader of the Council and he had been to public meetings where the public had been given misinformation from a political party about the position.  He clarified the position.  The bridge is owned by the Council.  It clearly has huge importance to all of London, particularly the southwest of London, which is why we are paying for the engineering and the design work taking place now and will come up with an agreement with the Council in relation to what happens going forward, including involving the Government.


However, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.  I did not hear these arguments made when Westminster Council unilaterally decided to cancel plans that would improve the air quality of all of London and would improve the security of all of London.  I did not hear the Assembly Member saying that the Mayor should take over Oxford Street.  It cuts both ways, Assembly Member.


Tony Arbour AM (Deputy Chairman):  Let me deal with that.  There is absolutely no comparison between something that is a real and present emergency - the closure of that bridge - and some speculative thing happening in a particular borough.  This is manifestly a London-wide matter.  TfL is manifestly a London-wide authority.  The mayoralty was set up to take strategic decisions.  What the residents of the boroughs that I represent and that Assembly Member Cooper represents and that Assembly Member Devenish represents want to know is that a real and present problem is being dealt with.  As I have already said, it has taken until today for you to make the statement that the bridge or something there is going to be reopened.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Again, the Leader and others have been quite clear about this for the last few weeks and the last few months in fact.  The plan is to have the bridge reopened as soon as possible for all vehicles.  They will look at options, clearly.  There could be a discussion, for example, about whether you want a bridge that is more expensive to be repaired for double-decker buses versus single-decker buses.  There could be discussions about weight restrictions.


However, the point is this.  If it is the case that the Conservative Members want me to have more control over roads and bridges controlled by boroughs that we do not own, that means campaigning with me to reverse the massive cuts made by the Government to our operating grant.  We have lost £700 million a year in operating grant.  That pays for the maintenance of things that we do not own.


Tony Arbour AM (Deputy Chairman):  It is completely outrageous that you have turned this real problem into a political football.  The position is quite simple.  The bridge has been closed.  It is causing massive disruption right across west London.  What you have been doing is saying, “The problem is one of finance”.  We established at the last MQT that TfL has ample reserves.  The reserves are required for an emergency.  You accepted at the last meeting that this indeed was an emergency and yet you are still hiding behind the way this matter is to be financed.


A proper strategic Mayor should have the smack of firm government and say that he is going to take this on behalf of London to put the problem right and deal with the money question afterwards.  Do you not think that that is what you really ought to be doing?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Again, Chair, I am not really sure how I can add to this commentary in relation to what I have said before, which is that we are working closely with the Council.  Experts including engineers are undertaking comprehensive work about the options, including timescales, including likely requirements, including costs in relation to how the bridge can be repaired as soon as possible.  I am aware of Conservative politicians playing politics with the closure of this bridge.


It is disappointing, but there you go.  This is a Victorian bridge made of wood and iron.  We have known for many years, when there was a previous Mayor in charge and a previous party running that Council, that it had problems.  We have been paying for a number of years to maintain the bridge, including putting restrictions in place and having single-decker buses to deal with the concerns.  We will work with the Council and others to have the bridge opened as a soon as possible.  We would hope there could be some consensus here rather than local Members of Parliament and local councillors playing politics with what is an important strategic use for that part of London.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  Can I just be clear about what we also heard in that exchange.  We have heard that Assembly Member Devenish’s office is going to relate to the Deputy Mayor for Transport’s [Heidi Alexander] office and that there will be a meeting that Assembly Members with constituency responsibilities and Assembly Members with general interests on this matter can attend.  That is going to be done as soon as possible.  Is there a timeline, looking to Assembly Member Devenish, that we should try ‑‑


Tony Devenish AM:  The Mayor said August [2019], which is fine by me.  I am here all of August.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  This meeting should take place in August [2019].  OK?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The key ask is a reasonable ask.  Before the public are told, it is not unreasonable for the Assembly to be told in a private briefing.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  We are going to have that meeting organised in August [2019]?  Thank you.


Can we just wave goodbye - they are just leaving - to students from the University of Florida?  I was waiting for the appropriate time to introduce them and, sadly, they have now gone.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  They are waving, Chair, if that helps.


Jennette Arnold OBE AM (Chair):  OK.  They got a mayoral wave.  Sorry about that.  I was just waiting for the appropriate time to introduce them.