Car-free scheme may ban vehicles from popular London bridge

Possible, a climate change charity, is calling on the Hammersmith & Fulham and Richmond Councils to potentially launch a major feasibility study. The project would look into the viability of a car-free alternative to reopening Hammersmith Bridge in London to motor traffic.

It has been suggested that a fleet of lightweight autonomous electric vehicles could provide the vital transport link across the bridge, which has been shut to traffic since 2019.

Crucially, this would avoid the need for further expensive engineering works to the Grade II Listed structure in west London.

The plans would see the introduction of a two-way cycle lane, which would run across the bridge next to the pods and also still allow pedestrians to use it.

The bridge was closed indefinitely four years ago after cracks were found, with pedestrians and cyclists also being banned from using it between August 2020 and July 2021.

Data shows that since it was closed in 2019, around half of the motor traffic that used to cross the river has disappeared.

The Mayor of London, Transport for London and Hammersmith & Fulham Council have all committed to lofty environmental goals to slash car traffic in the city by over a quarter by the end of the decade.

However, Possible claims that the organisations involved do not have the right policies in place to achieve this.

Leo Murray, co-director at climate charity Possible, said: “In the four years since excess motor traffic broke Hammersmith Bridge and it was forced to close to cars, vehicle counts show that traffic has actually fallen across south west London, even in key places where some local people believe it has got worse. 

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“Primary school children in Barnes can no longer even remember a time when cars drove over the bridge.

“With still no funding agreement in sight for the hugely costly work which would be needed to reopen Hammersmith Bridge to cars, it’s long past time for authorities to take other options for meeting local transport needs seriously.”

The 10-passenger “pods” would enable people with mobility issues on either side of the river to access the other side of the bridge.

This would be especially key for those looking to access transport connections and opportunities in Hammersmith town centre.

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The plans would also see bus routes in the area being restructured to ensure that continuous journeys can operate smoothly.

The alternative proposal set out by Possible has been developed alongside highway engineers and autonomous vehicle manufacturers.

It is estimated that the total costs of delivering the proposed scheme would be less than what has already been spent by the authority on trying to reopen the bridge to cars.

Many experts are expecting the construction works to be completed in the coming weeks, which would enable the carriageway to open to cyclists only.

Mr Murray added: “Our proposal looks to the clean transport technologies of the future, and could genuinely be in operation serving local communities within months. 

“All we need to go ahead is for the councils to agree to let us carry out a full feasibility study.”

Possible stated that the shuttle solution has been designed to work within the existing engineering constraints already in place.

Once repairs are finished, only a single, lightweight vehicle will be able to cross at the same time as pedestrians and cyclists.

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