Login | Register
SearchMy Stuff
My ProfileMy PreferencesMy Mates RSS Feed
Wednesday 11th January 2012

Hammersmith Flyover: more than temporary trouble?

Is closure of main London arterial route a sign of deeper problems in the UK's road network?



The recent closure of the A4 flyover in Hammersmith, west London, is more serious than authorities are prepared to admit, a Transport for London (TfL) insider has claimed. And it's a problem that could be repeated with many of the UK's older elevated sections of concrete carriageway.

TfL bosses and London mayor Boris Johnson are adamant that the road will be reopened in time for the London Olympics, but an inside source has told the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle that this is 'spinning lies and deceit' on the part of the authorities.

The road, which is one of the main arterial routes in and out of central London, has been shut since before Christmas, when engineers found 'serious structural defects'.

The flyover in happier times
The flyover in happier times
"A solution which will allow the flyover to be fully open to traffic before the Olympics is now being implemented and we will re-open the flyover to traffic as soon as it is safe to do so," said Leon Daniels, TfL's managing director of surface transport.

But according to the Chronicle's source, "TfL are spinning lies and deceit and the media are swallowing it hook, line and sinker. There's a bigger story, which is that it's going to be shut until the Olympics.

"When the Olympics comes along it's going to be open. There is going to be one lane open eastbound and one lane westbound and only for authorised Olympic vehicles. Only cars, not coaches. This will be policed by TfL and the police. Then as soon as the Olympics is finished it will shut again."

The problem - and one that's repeated across the capital and the country as a whole - is that structures such as the Hammersmith Flyover (which was opened in 1959 by none other than Jayne Mansfield but not completed until 1962) are simply reaching the end of their lives.


This is compounded by salt and grit laid during the winter, which causes the concrete's internal cables to corrode.

London's Transport Commissioner Paul Hendy has admitted the gravity of the situation, telling BBC London radio earlier this week that the problems with the flyover are worse than expected.

"We never expected to find any section of it that bad," he said, explaining that the road was intended to have integral heating to avoid the need for gritting. "The under floor heating never worked and over the 40 years it was in existence, before we took over in 2000, clearly salt water has gone steadily into the structure."

Edmund King, president of the AA, acknowledges the possibility of a widespread repetition of the A4 crisis. "This isn't the sort of thing that happened overnight - if it's being monitored properly then you'll know in advance," he told PistonHeads. "Are there other structures that we should be monitoring more closely? More provision should be made for the public to be told of potential problems. The problem in London was that there was very title warning of the closure, so people got stuck."

When movie stars used to open roads...
When movie stars used to open roads...
The biggest concerns centre around early examples of steel-reinforced concrete structures from the 1960s, a time when waterproofing practices lagged behind concrete construction techniques. The legacy of that is a large number of road structures whose structural integrity might be called into question. Dr Chris Burgoyne, an expert in Concrete studies at Cambridge University, told the Sunday Times that "when these flyovers and bridges were built, durability was not seen as so critical a problem. Waterproofing was not done as carefully as it might have been. Now we are paying the penalty."

More alarming still is that, if there is a problem with a particular piece of carriageway that hasn't been regularly monitored (ie if water has seeped into concrete road sections and caused the steel cables to rust) it won't necessarily be apparent until it's too late.

As Garrett Emmerson, head of surface transport at TfL explained to The Sunday Times, "In more traditional bridges you would see deterioration long before you have to question the bridge's structural integrity, but this one will look fine [from the outside] until the last cable pings."

Westway at White City in shinier times
Westway at White City in shinier times
The potentially crumbling state of some roads is an alarming thought, especially when it impacts on some of the key junctions in the UK's road network. And this isn't just speculation - it's already happening: the 85-metre, 3500-tonne bridge that used to carry M6 southbound traffic over the M1 at the Catthorpe interchange has had to be demolished for safety reasons (though it is part of £150m of improvements to the junction), while in 2010 the M6's Gravelly Hill interchange (aka Spaghetti junction), a chronic sufferer of salt-based corrosion, had to have a new support fitted at a cost of £2.7m.

The nearby Ray Hall viaduct where the M5 meets the M6 is also having £10.5m worth of repairs made to 13 concrete columns, while Middle Engine Lane bridge near Newcastle has £500,000 of improvements earmarked to repair cosmetic corrosion.

In London the situation is less clear, with TfL rather than the Highways Agency taking responsibility for most of the road network; if the problems with the Hammersmith flyover were to be repeated on the Westway, parts of the North Circular, or the Eastway - essentially any of the older elevated roads in the capital - it's uncertain what (or whether) plans are in place for refurbishment or rebuilding.

The big question is, can a public purse that's under so much pressure afford to support the refurbishment and rebuilding of key parts of our transport infrastructure? More to the point, can it afford not to?

Images: Kayode Okeyode and Shaun Ferguson

Riggers
2 3 4 5
Reply to Topic
Author Discussion

AV12

Original Poster:

4,179 posts

95 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
This was never ever going to be fully open by the Olympics. for official vehicles only? Disgraceful.

They should consider suspending all parking restrictions and opening up proper alternatives.

Lack of investment in the roads and it shows. TFL should hang their head in shame.

TheRoadWarrior

1,220 posts

65 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Government in 'lack of road funding shocker'

Next you'll be telling me they can't afford to fill in all the potholes.

365daytonafan

234 posts

72 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
In some ways I'm actually happy to hear that the Hammersmith flyover will be closed for some time as living in Chiswick and reverse communting everyday, it is currently making my journey a lot easier.

Having said that I also have to travel over the elevated section of the M4 which I assume has the same basic design and therefore potentially the same issues?


AngryPartsBloke

513 posts

38 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
If only there was some way to collect some sort of fee each year from drivers in order to maintain the roads, maybe something you could get at the post office or on this internet thing?

Riggers

1,851 posts

65 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
365daytonafan said:
In some ways I'm actually happy to hear that the Hammersmith flyover will be closed for some time as living in Chiswick and reverse communting everyday, it is currently making my journey a lot easier.

Having said that I also have to travel over the elevated section of the M4 which I assume has the same basic design and therefore potentially the same issues?
One would assume so, however I suspect that the gradients at either end of the Hammersmith flyover mark it out as a subject of more heavy gritting than the flatter elevated section of the M4 to the west.

That's pure speculation, mind...
Advertisement

CliveM

407 posts

72 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
It'll serve the pompous politicians right if the parades and general flannel of the Olympics is shown up by base infrastructure closures.

Funny how it's easy to find several billion for the Olympics (and please don't pretend they thought the original bid price was anything other than marketing spin) but actually putting some money back into London is so hard......

task

289 posts

58 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Perhaps if more of our road tax was spent on improving roads and less pandering to the left-wing militia then the road sections could have been maintained to a higher standard in the first place.

As for only opening it for the Olympics, what a cop out.

Sicob

478 posts

115 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Love the way this went from fully open, to closed overnight. Shows the brilliance of TFL in monitoring a key structure that would undoubtedly be affected by corrosion and wear and tear.

va1o

13,756 posts

94 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Off topic but the warnings about this on the M25 and M40 message signs are starting to get a little boring, is it really necessary? I've now seen them every day for about the last month.

Dr G

11,261 posts

129 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
I hear there's 32 billion quid lying around that is currently earmarked for nothing very useful.

900T-R

19,473 posts

144 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
The thing is that back in 1960, probably no one expected we would be relying on the very same road infrastructure fifty years on...

binnerboy

225 posts

37 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
I would like to make a prediction that this issue will be not correctly addressed until there is a fatality related to a collapse. As the road network is maintained by many different body depending on whether it is a motorway (HA), local road (council or other TFL) etc there will then be the usual finger pointing between the various groups responsible for the roads and it will be used as further evidence that more investment in HS2 is required and that the roads are unnecessary, dangerous and environmentally evil.


Riggers

1,851 posts

65 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Sicob said:
Love the way this went from fully open, to closed overnight. Shows the brilliance of TFL in monitoring a key structure that would undoubtedly be affected by corrosion and wear and tear.
And the really odd thing is that they've been in charge for 12 years. It's not something that happens overnight, this sort of corrosion.

Al 450

1,369 posts

108 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
On the plus side, Jayne Mansfield was really quite fit wasn't she?

emicen

6,119 posts

105 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
All those years of supporting the welfare state come home to roost. Motorists give tens of billions and receive a handful back in capital investment.

All the while, the underclasses their money is wasted on, spawn ever increasing costs to add to the burden. Marvellous.

jains15

956 posts

60 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
^^ and ironically cutting back on infrastructure projects which enable the worker bees (you and I poor mugs) to actually get to work to pay for it....

You know thinking about it (tin foil hat mode on) there have been two major bridge upgrades in this area recently, the M4 junction 6 east floyover bridge & A404M bridge over the Railway. Both seemed to replace the bridges like for like and seemed to be started in a hurry. And are both of the same era as Hammersmith flyover. I do now wonder if it's connected to this sort of problem.

The inference being that there is a cover up going on and the authorities know damn well how bad is and how bad it looks...

Sivraj

256 posts

78 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
AngryPartsBloke said:
If only there was some way to collect some sort of fee each year from drivers in order to maintain the roads, maybe something you could get at the post office or on this internet thing?
It sounds like a very good suggestion,
We'd have to make sure that the money was spent on the roads and not siphoned off to pay for other government short falls though (not that they would ever consider such a thing!...

CDP

5,053 posts

141 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
The two big carparks in Norwich from that period both had to be closed and demolished at roughly the same time too.

I wonder if we're going to see a catastrophic collapse someday? If they're as weak as people say a minor earthquake combined with heavy traffic might just do the trick.

JJ78

68 posts

73 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
all bridges have a finite life, and all engineers, costruction companies know this, it's obvious that if you bury steel in concrete and pour salt water on it you also need to check it... it's obviously not been done, the big bridges Humber/Forth road etc are constantly monitored, and in fact the forth bridge is very near the end of it's life... also from what I hear so is a big red bridge in San Fransisco!!

tell me... what will happen to the new super mega skyscrapers in 50 years..... how do you knock one of them down???

drewbagz

124 posts

51 months

[news] 
Wednesday 11th January 2012 quote quote all
Forget the £32bn it's going to cost the UK taxpayer to create a high speed line between Birmingham and London, which will decrease the travelling time for a few thousand people per day, and spend the money improving tens of thousands of motorists lives, decreasing their (our / my) travelling time and improving our degraded road network.

Simple as that!
2 3 4 5
Reply to Topic