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Hammersmith Bridge closure has had major impact on people’s mental health, new survey suggests

<p>A banner displays instructions forbidding people from passing under the bridge as repairs are carried out</p>

A banner displays instructions forbidding people from passing under the bridge as repairs are carried out

/ AFP via Getty Images
Jonathan PrynnConsumer Business Editor
11 February 2021

he closure of Hammersmith Bridge six months ago this weekend has had a major impact on the mental health of nearby residents, a new poll suggests.

Nearly 90 per cent of 232 people who responded to a survey by the Hammersmith Bridge SOS and Barnes Community Association groups said the loss of the 134-year-old crossing has made them feel worse about life.

Pedestrians and cyclists were banned from using the bridge on August 13 last year when cracks in the cast iron structure were found by engineers from Hammersmith & Fulham council to have gotten worse.

It has been closed to traffic since April 2019 when the flaws were first discovered and a full repair could take more than six years.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps set up a Task Force chaired by Roads Minister Baroness Vere to “make sure we bash heads together and get this thing sorted” in September last year.

But many respondents said slow progress towards reopening the cast iron bridge, which links Hammersmith and Barnes, had increased their levels of stress and left them struggling with depression and sleeplessness.

The problem is particularly acute in Barnes, where residents have relied on the bridge for easy access to public transport in Hammersmith. They now face long diversions via Chiswick and Putney.

One said: ”My children are struggling to get to school. They and I feel stressed, anxious and depressed as a result. It is affecting my sleep greatly. I feel trapped and powerless.”

Another said: ”It’s soul destroying to have such a stagnant situation with no light at the end of the tunnel. Everyone who is in a position to help passing the buck. I’ll probably be dead before it opens up.”

Businessman Toby Gordon-Smith, 46, who is a wheelchair user, said he had deliberately chosen to live near the bridge in Barnes because it gave him easy access to Hammersmith station, where there are lifts.

He said: ”The other transport options are non-existent. At Barnes Bridge station you can’t even get to the platform as a wheelchair user and it is the same at Putney.

“When I could get across the bridge I could get access to shops and office and life was good, now I am completely shut off from the rest of the world. When lockdown ends that is going to become a much more serious issue than it is now. I honestly haven’t thought through how I am going to get to a meeting in Central London.

“It adds a lot of mental health pressure to an already stressful situation.”

Baroness Vere said: ”We all want to see this bridge open, I am very ambitious for this project I want it to be done as quickly as possible and as effectively as possible. I do understand it is having a huge impact on so many people.”