Hammersmith Bridge Closure

Hammersmith Bridge 2

Hammersmith Bridge in west London has been closed “indefinitely” by the local Council after safety checks revealed “critical faults”. This Victorian bridge was never designed for modern traffic, particularly heavy buses, and has been falling into disrepair for some time.

The local council (Hammersmith & Fulham) and Transport for London (TfL) blames lack of funding to repair the bridge and in particular cuts in Government funding. Financing major bridge repairs would normally be the responsibility of TfL so they are clearly the ones to blame. The Government says they have given billions of pounds in funding to TfL so it’s not their fault. In other words, everyone is trying to make political capital out of this management failure.

Hammersmith Bridge is a key part of the road network and there is a legal obligation on the local Council under their Network Management Duty (see the Traffic Management Act) to keep it open. But local councils only have very limited funding for transport projects and rely on TfL for major projects.

The estimated cost of the required work to repair the bridge is £11 million. Meanwhile TfL is planning to spend at least £400 million on a new pedestrian/cyclist only bridge at Rotherhithe. Surely TfL have their priorities wrong?

Residents who wish to complain should complain to Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, because he heads TfL, and also to the local council. However Labour controlled Hammersmith & Fulham Council have known about the problems with this bridge for many years but done nothing (that Council has responsibility for the bridge).

Roger Lawson

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Westminster Diesel Parking Charge

The London Borough of Westminster is to trial an increased on-street parking charge for diesel vehicles. It will be a trial scheme in the Marylebone/Fitzrovia areas starting in April. Diesel vehicles will pay an extra 50% on the normal charge of £4.90 per hour.

The object is stated to improve air quality by deterring diesel vehicle usage and ownership. The additional money raised will be used to subsidise public transport schemes.

There are potentially two problems with this. Firstly it looks like a revenue raising measure when the law is quite clear on this matter (see Camden v. Cran and the more recent Barnet case). The Acts of Parliament that enable councils to charge for parking do not permit “revenue raising” measures.

Secondly, how will parking enforcement staff know whether a vehicle is diesel powered or not? Some models can be powered by either and the badge on them may not differentiate. Will parking attendants have access to DVLA records or will they be relying on the honesty of vehicle owners?

Hammersmith & Fulham

Diesel surcharges for permit parking are also an issue in the Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. Councillor Greg Smith, Leader of the Conservative Group on the Council, had this to say at a recent meeting: “It is nonsensical from an environmental perspective. Diesel cars are simply not the worst offenders for putting nitrogen dioxide and nitrous oxide into the air. The worst offenders are aircraft and heavy goods vehicles, with buses and black cabs also contributing.”. He suggested the Council should encourage renewal of domestic boilers to cut pollution.

He also said “Bizarrely from a party who are supposed to be about fairness and the redistribution of wealth, it is deeply unfair to those who can least afford to change their vehicle AND beneficial to the owners of more expensive, fuel inefficient cars.

Indeed, we must ask ourselves why is it that a Labour Council is taxing the owner of a diesel Ford Fiesta on Crookham Road in my ward more, but the £119,000, 16 feet long Porsche Cayenne Turbo S parked next to it gets a tax break by still only paying £119 a year, despite taking up five feet more in length! Or perhaps they are proud of wanting to charge the owner of the 75mpg Skoda Fabia on Mimosa Street more to park, but the £132,000, 15mpg, 550hp, 5.0 Litre V8 Supercharged Petrol, Range Rover SV Autobiography parked next to it less.

Is that what the Labour Party has become? Champion of the supercar? Promoter of the Porsche? Friend of the Ferrari? All great cars, but it just doesn’t add up with what they say they are trying to achieve.

To be generous, Labour are confused on this matter. To be more accurate, I think they are engaged on a mission of spite – desperate for a headline, but without any substance or foundation.”

Comment: Yes these kind of taxes are token environmental gestures when there is little data provided on what the benefit will be. So as so often these days we get policies promoted without any proper cost/benefit analysis and the cost of introducing these schemes is simply ignored. It’s truly “gesture politics” of the worst kind.

Westminister Council is also a particularly bad example of a lack of democratic accountability and information provision. Try searching their web site for information on these proposals, reports on the topic, minutes of meetings that considered the issue, public consultations, or ways to object etc. You can’t find anything!

Roger Lawson