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
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
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

    Maths Teacher

    £110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

    Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    ***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

    £35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

    Day In a Page

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

    Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

    Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

    Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

    The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

    Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
    Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

    Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

    The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
    DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

    Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

    Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
    The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

    Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

    The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

    Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

    The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    11 best sonic skincare brushes

    Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
    Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

    Paul Scholes column

    I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

    While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
    Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

    Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker