The complex flyover was forced to close due to water damage that has corroded and weakened the cables that give the bridge its strength. It had been thought that it would be up to ten years before any major work was required on the flyover, however recent maintenance checks showed work would be required much earlier than anticipated.
A detailed investigation was launched immediately and a team of 80 Transport for London engineers, contractors, and leading structural engineering experts have been working nonstop on site and within the structure throughout the Christmas and New Year period.
The engineers have inserted cameras into the structure of the flyover at 100 different locations to assess key sections of the cables it contains. Today they told the Mayor that investigations of the extent of the damage to those cables must continue for a further week before engineers will be in a position to decide whether it is strong enough to allow its reopening even to light traffic.
However they confirmed that preparatory work can begin ahead of the installation of new cables within the structure that will strengthen the flyover and allow it to take full vehicle loading again. They also confirmed that the flyover will be repaired and fully available to traffic before the London 2012 Games.
I understand from a local source, however, that there is some doubt about that behind the scenes and in any case this blows a very big hole in the spin being put on things by the Council recently, about the flyover being open by the 9th Jan. It also seems the BBC were a little quick to apologise for their claim that it would be closed until Feb - the Olympics are of course not until summer, after February when they were predicting it would be shut until.
This really does have the makings of an almighty mess for the Games, let alone the continued gridlock in and around Hammersmith.
One of the Mayor’s chief concerns has been that TfL do everything possible to keep disruption for Londoners and people passing through the area to the minimum. Today the team on site outlined the measures they have put in place. They include:
- Traffic police rapid response units on placed on permanent standby in the area so they are ready to unblock any incidents or clear accidents as soon as possible;
- Local traffic diversions, along with Variable Messaging Signs – including on Highways Agency roads – advising drivers to avoid the area as far out as the M25 and M4 from the flyover. All signage, alerts and traffic mitigation plans are kept under nearly hourly review to minimise disruption or give drivers the maximum opportunity to avoid the area;
- The re-phasing of hundreds of traffic signals in the area to reduce disruption as much as possible and ease traffic flow;
- The cancellation of any non urgent roadworks in the local area and a daily review of whether other works should be suspended. Works cancelled have included previously planned works at Earl's Court Road, Cromwell Road and the Westway;
- The creation of an extra lane on Talgarth Road to help minimise the impact of the closure;
- Close liaison with the relevant local authorities to keep local people, businesses and organisations informed of the ongoing work taking place;
- Plans to divert traffic from the M4 to other routes if necessary;
- Working with boroughs on the efficient management of their roads to help cope with the closure
Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London said:
“I want to reassure the thousands of motorists and local people who are suffering traffic hell that the flyover will not be closed one day longer than necessary. Safety has to be the number one priority but Transport for London will reopen this vital stretch of road as soon as they are able to do so. One thing I can assure Londoners of is that a plan is being finalised within the next few days and work is already beginning on strengthening the flyover so that it is fully operational well ahead of the 2012 Games.”1700 UPDATE - The Evening Standard appears to have an exclusive insight into the realistic likely opening schedule, and it isn't good news. Talking to Peter Dominiczak, the Standard's City Hall Correspondent, Chris Burgoyne, a reader in concrete structures at Cambridge university, said drivers could still face months of disruption.
Mr Burgoyne, who was drafted in to assess the damage, said:
"It could be months before the bridge is completely reopened. It is likely that they will say the bridge can re-open with one lane in each direction taking light traffic only - no trucks. But it is possible that motorists will suffer a number of months more of disruption."While Andy Slaughter has posted this column on his website in which he also throws doubt on the official version and argues that the real problem is that TfL is basically unaccountable to anyone.
SATURDAY UPDATE - LBC Radio reported Tom Cheal has uploaded a video which he took while accompanying Boris' visit to the site yesterday which gives you a visual insight into what the problems are and what's proposed to be done about it. LBC are really quite good at this, and last helped me in May last year in the wake of the Hammersmith bus station stabbing with a recording of a witness statement. Well worth listening to.