West London flyovers & viaducts keep falling down?

 As yet another West London flyover or viaduct undergoes emergency repairs, inconveniencing many car drivers  in the process, questions need to be asked about their long term life; whether to rebuild or replace them and further, how to make the Highways Agency more accountable to Londoners.  

For some of us it’s come as  no surprise that we’ve had to endure a weekend when the Highway Agency have shut-off the M4 between junction 1 and 3 and in particular along the elevated M4 going through Brentford (Boston Manor viaduct).  This has resulted in a great deal of disruption to traffic in West London and my understanding is that problems have been ongoing since April.  The closure is set to continue until Thursday (12th) whilst the Agency undertake work, installing plates on hairline cracks in the concrete of the elevated M4.

The identification of a new crack on the damaged Boston Manor viaduct has forced the closure of the M4 between London and Heathrow airport – a key section along the Olympic Route Network – for up to five days, the Agency states.

The Agency said the new crack had been identified in a “sensitive location” following overnight works last night. Site workers were embarking on the final stages of the complex repairs to 15mm long hairline cracks discovered by chance in April in welds on the viaduct just west of junction 2 in Hounslow.

A 7.5t weight restriction on the damaged stretch had already been imposed since April, diverting coaches and lorries onto busy local roads.

The Agency said it expected to have the ongoing remedial work completed to enable the viaduct to open in time for the start of the Olympic Games later this month.  Lets hope so, as the affected section is on the Olympic Route Network and will be used to carry coaches travelling to and from Heathrow airport and the Olympic Park in East London.

Although these are the immediate concerns.  In the long term, we need to assess all the flyovers and viaducts particularly in West London as the engineers who have working on the repairs of the M4 are informally saying that it only has a further 5 year life span.  The Hammersmith flyover had to be repaired suddenly in March and April and now the elevated M4 in Brentford.  What next.  the Westway flyover going over North Kensington & Paddington?

If such critical infrastructure have come to the end of their working life, then we need to start thinking of how to replace or rebuild them properly to ensure theri longgevity.   For example, with the Hammersmith flyover, there have been suggestions of having a tunnel instead.  What ever the options, the Highway Agency must be up front about it to Londoners.  At the sametime, it should be accountable to us via the GLA set-up rather then to the Department of Transport as a quango.  This will allow elected London politicans to hold the Agency to account for their management and maintenance of critical infrastructure. I trust that isn’t asking for too much!



5 thoughts on “West London flyovers & viaducts keep falling down?

  1. Libertyscott

    The Hammersmith Flyover and the Westway are the responsibility of TfL. That didn’t deliver improved accountability or asset management. Indeed, given TfL street management is subsumed within surface transport, which includes buses, it is likely that it is the poor relation within TfL, as it has been since TfL was established.

    For 2 decades governments in the UK, of both persuasions, have treated funding of London highways as being a low priority, with public transport being over emphasised and the belief that any road improvements just induce traffic leaving the road network to be neglected. It’s about time a serious discussion be had about developing corridor plans and long term strategies to replace such structures, preferably with bored tunnels to release precious land for other purposes.

    1. Murad

      Thanks for your comments Scott. As my blog suggests its something l intend to be bringing up and its useful to see your views on this matter. As someone who grew up in Paddington, l’m more then aware of the impact of the westway in the neighbourhood and l’m also familiar with Brentford and the elevated M4 going over it. Such West London communities along with Hammersmith would welcome such discussions as began to be heard with alternatives to the Hammersmith flyover like a tunnel suggested after its closer.

  2. Libertyscott

    Thanks Murad. In the current environment, money just to replace flyovers with tunnels wont exist, but as it will take a long time there will ultimately have to be discussion and hopefully consensus about replacing ailing and expensive to maintain structures. About the only way I think this could be realised is by borrowing against the property made available (and getting contributions from the capital gains from improvements to neighbouring properties) from such ventures. Some Conservative councillors in H & C are interested in the concept, it would be great to at least get some cross party support in exploring the viability of such options and making sure options are not shut out by short sighted planning.

    It absolutely needs a mix of borough, TfL, Mayor and central government support, albeit acknowledging Treasury will say no in the short term. Crossrail needed long term thinking, so does this concept, which is less about transport and more about amenity.

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