Race against clock to fix vital transport artery for Olympics

Experts fear London's Hammersmith Flyover could be closed for months due to defects

London faces a race against time to repair a crucial flyover which will carry traffic into the capital for this summer's Olympics, according to one of Britain's leading structural engineers.

Click here to see the 'Hammersmith flyover- High chance of disaster'

The Hammersmith Flyover, which carries 90,000 vehicles a day on the A4, the road between central London and the West, including Heathrow airport, has been closed for a fortnight after serious defects were found in the 50-year-old structure. Major traffic congestion is already being caused, which is likely to increase when many schools go back this week.

The cables which squeeze together the separate pre-cast concrete segments of the bridge, known as pre-stressing cables, were found to have corroded because of water damage and to have lost much of their tension – a problem which, if not dealt with, would lead to the flyover collapsing.

Engineers say several other road bridges in the UK are threatened by the corrosion process known as chloride contamination, caused when salty water seeps into concrete when ice melts. Spaghetti junction (Gravelly Hill) near Birmingham was afflicted with chloride contamination and in 2010 underwent repairs costing £2.7m.

In Hammersmith, although the corrosion can be temporarily repaired for the Games, the job is going to be complex and lengthy, according to Dr Chris Burgoyne of the Department of Engineering at Cambridge University, who has been called in by Transport for London to advise on the problem.

Asked whether it would be a race against time to get the flyover reopened in time for the 2012 Games, which begin on 27 July, Dr Burgoyne said: "Yes. It will take a long time to sort it out. You're definitely talking about months."

It is now dawning on the organisers of the Games, and in particular the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, that the state of the bridge is presenting a serious threat to the complex transport plans drawn up to allow athletes and visitors to move around the capital during sport's greatest spectacle.

On Friday Mr Johnson visited the flyover to inspect the work and was at pains to insist that all would be well. "One thing I can assure Londoners of is a plan is being finalised within the next few days and work is already beginning on strengthening the flyover so it is fully operational well ahead of the 2012 Games," he said.

But Dr Burgoyne, who is reader in concrete structures at Cambridge, and who agreed with TfL's consultants' advice to close the flyover immediately when he learned of the damage on 23 December, explained just how difficult it is going to be to deal with the damaged cables inside the 622m-long structure, which opened in 1962. "These days, in building a pre-stressed concrete structure, you would leave the cables exposed all the way along their length. It means they're slightly more liable to corrode, but it means you can inspect them easily and replace them," he said. "But what they did in Hammersmith is they surrounded them with mortar boxes, which effectively stop you seeing what's going on in the cable. It means you can't easily replace the cables.

"It's a big job. A lot of the work would have to be done inside the box sections and access is not easy. I couldn't stand up... at mid-span it's only about 4ft high, so working conditions are quite cramped in there. You can't throw lots of men at one location – there physically isn't room for them." He added: "They've got to come up with a design, they've got to get it checked, and get it approved."

Transport for London has been working around the clock on the site. The investigation will continue this week before it decides if the flyover is strong enough to reopen even to light traffic.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
News
newsAstonishing moment a kangaroo takes down a drone
Life and Style
Duchess of Cambridge standswith officials outside of the former wartime spy centre in Bletchley Park
tech
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    The Jenrick Group: Maintenance Planner

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...

    The Jenrick Group: World Wide PLC Service Engineer

    £30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...

    The Jenrick Group: Project Manager

    £35000 per annum + Pension+Bupa: The Jenrick Group: We are recruiting for an e...

    The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

    £43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'