Bridges of Sighs

If as a cabbie, a group of tourists ask to be taken to ‘Old London Town’, you could do a lot worst than by crossing London’s ancient bridges.

To start take them to Richmond Bridge opened months after America gained its independence (1777); then show them how those industrious Victorians constructed most of London’s bridges: Westminster (1862), Blackfriars (1869), Albert (1873), Hammersmith (1887), Battersea (1890), Tower (1894).

Post-Victoria far fewer bridges have been constructed, with only one road bridge since World War II: Kew (1903), Vauxhall (1906), Southwark (1921), Lambeth (1932), Chiswick (1933), Twickenham (1933), Chelsea (1937), Wandsworth (1940), Waterloo (1945), London (1973).

The bridges’ condition is so poor, the London Assembly’s Transport Committee produced a report which was launched with the rather punchy headline: London’s ageing river crossings – an international embarrassment.

We still have Hammersmith Bridge’s debacle, which saw the bridge closed to motorists in April 2019 after cracks were found in the cast iron pedestals, the bridge was then completely closed. Now reopened for pedestrians and cyclists while ‘stabilisation work’ going on.

One of the big problems with maintaining all these ageing structures is that no one is responsible for them. London Bridge is owned and maintained by Bridge House Estates, Transport for London is the one responsible for the road, then one end is in the City, while the other end is in Southwark.

One of the recommendations of the report is to set up a central ‘kitty’ into which ‘all the relevant asset owners would contribute’.

This is needed because the report warns that ‘Twickenham, Kew, Battersea and Lambeth may need extensive interventions within 10 years’ and the estimated cost of the maintenance work that‘s needed to deal with just the existing issues is coming in at around £241 million.

As Mayor Khan is planning to remove thousands of vehicles from London’s roads, closing bridges for repair should not present a problem.

Featured image by Philip Halling (CC BY-SA 2.0) London Bridge: The present London Bridge opened in March 1973 and was designed by Mott, Hay and Anderson. In medieval times the then London Bridge stood slightly upstream from the site of the present bridge, this old bridge had buildings on it and was also the place where the heads of those executed would be placed on a spike.

3 thoughts on “Bridges of Sighs”

  1. Perhaps they should appoint a ‘Minister For Bridges’? Sunak could give the job to one of his old schoolfriends, then hand out the maintenance contracts to his mates. They will not actually do anything except go bankrupt, then leave the country with their ‘untraceable’ money.
    Best wishes, Pete.


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