Boat Race Weekend Protest at Hammersmith Bridge

Local rowing clubs and schools join MP to demand reopening

Putney MP Fleur Anderson with banner in support of reopening Hammersmith Bridge Putney MP Fleur Anderson with banner in support of reopening Hammersmith Bridge

A protest about the closure of Hammersmith Bridge was held on Boat Race weekend (Saturday 3 April) over the continued closure.

The race between Oxford and Cambridge would normally have started from this location but concerns about the safety of the bridge along with the possibilities of large crowds attending meant that the event had been moved to Cambridgeshire.

Putney MP Fleur Anderson teamed up with local rowing organisations and hundreds of constituents to call on the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, to fund its restoration.

There were boats from the London Rowing Club, Wandsworth Youth River Club and Putney High Boat Club out on the water. A significant number of local people came to the Embankment to sign a large banner in support of reopening.

Speaking of the event Ms Anderson said, “Hammersmith Bridge remains closed and despite the recent announcement of a ferry service its eventual reopening feels a long way off.

“The closure of the bridge is not really just about the boat race. It’s about the amount of pollution that’s going down Putney High Street due to the diversions and the daily effect of local people and businesses. About 4,000 extra vehicles go through Putney every day. Last September the government set up a taskforce, there seems to be little task and no force about it.

“I am also leading a debate on the funding of Hammersmith Bridge closure in the House of Commons on April 14th and will work cross-party with MPs to ask the Minister for the funding for the Bridge that the people of South West London need.

“The government needs to ensure that repairs get underway soon – Hammersmith and Fulham Council have spent £8.6 million on bridge repairs already. The full £141 million needed is equal to the entire annual budget of Hammersmith and Fulham Council. Without government intervention a temporary bridge and full restoration simply cannot happen.

“What we have seen on Saturday from local residents and organisations is absolutely fantastic. It really demonstrates the strong current of frustration and disappointment that not only is the bridge still closed, but that a funding solution still seems so far away.

“I will not be giving up on this issue and will continue to press for funding to allocated so I am not stood on Putney Embankment with this banner again this time next year.”

Putney High School GDST also joined the campaign on Saturday. Their head, Ms Suzie Longstaff, a former Olympian who coxed Cambridge University’s men’s second crew in 1997 and 1998 said, “We love our children going out to row, to get the fresh air and health benefits. At the moment boats can’t go underneath Hammersmith Bridge – they have to turn around before that. It’s going to be really congested and it’s not safe.

“The bridge closure has drawn a line through south west London, with school children amongst those bearing the brunt of the split. Pupils who have the misfortune to live on the ‘wrong side’ are now enduring long commutes simply to cross the river to school.”

Local rowing clubs participate in protest
Local rowing clubs participate in protest. Picture: Hammersmith Bridge SOS

Mark Luciani, Captain of London Rowing Club added, ”We really hope the Government will listen to our request and put an end to these fundamentally un-necessary delays in repairing Hammersmith Bridge, that hugely compromise a key sport for everybody from elite athletes through to school children. The time has come for our nation’s leaders to stop playing politics with the bridge and listen to locals. You got Brexit done. Now get our bridge done.”

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April 9, 2021