Police and Border Force officers rounded up another group of migrants who made the treacherous journey across the Channel in a dinghy before landing on a beach next to the Port of Dover.
More than 900 migrants have arrived in Dover this month as calmer waters over the Channel present an opportunity for crossings in small boats. No fewer than 4,468 people have made the perilous crossing this year.
A man on a mobile phone was seen running off by witnesses this morning after 11 migrants were intercepted under the white cliffs near the town centre.
But 15 life jackets were counted at the spot where they came ashore suggesting others may have slipped away.
The group – which included a distressed woman with what appeared to be a teenage son – tried to cross the busy A20 leading to the port around 9.30am when police arrived and detained them. Border Force then took over.
Favourable weather in the English Channel has made the crossing possible for hundreds of migrants over the last 10 days, despite Home Secretary Priti Patel’s vow to make the route ‘unviable’.
Police and Border Force officers rounded up another group of migrants (pictured) who made the treacherous journey across the Channel in a dinghy before landing on a beach next to the Port of Dover
Today’s group included a woman (pictured). A group of 11 migrants were intercepted under the white cliffs near the town centre at the Kent port town
Some 15 life jackets were counted at the spot where they came ashore (pictured) suggesting others may have slipped away
The group tried to cross the busy A20 leading to the port around 9.30am when police arrived and detained them. Pictured: A migrant speaking to an officer
More than 900 migrants have arrived in Dover this month as calmer waters in the Channel present an opportunity for crossings in small boats. Pictured: Migrants arriving today
At least 4,468 people have made the perilous crossing this year. Pictured: Migrants in Dover today
Four men who made the perilous journey across the Channel were seen in Dover today
One man sits waiting on the pavement after crossing the Channel with a group of other migrants
A weary woman is seen with her head in her hands while wrapped in jackets after she arrived in Dover
A woman is helped by a man after the group arrived in Dover after crossing the Channel today
It comes after a group of exhausted migrants landed on another Kent beach after crossing in a dinghy during a storm on Thursday.
Shocking pictures show some of the 10-strong group lying on the ground – one man holding the side of his body in pain – following a perilous journey over mthe Channel.
Some of the migrants, including one woman, were covered in mud after landing on the sandy beach at Greatstone, Romney Marsh.
Two of them were wrapped in foil blankets and were wearing face masks as they spoke to police and Border Force officers.
A woman wearing a face mask is seen sitting on the pavement after she crossed the Channel with a group today
The group (pictured) tried to cross the busy A20 leading to the port around 9.30am when police arrived and detained them. Border Force then took over
Favourable weather in the English Channel has made the crossing possible for hundreds of migrants over the last 10 days. Pictured: A group in Dover today
Home Secretary Priti Patel vowed to make the route across the Channel ‘unviable’ for those wishing to cross. Pictured: Migrants who made the journey today
A weary group of migrants were seen in Dover today after making the life-threatening journey across the Channel
A woman, man and a young boy were seen in Dover today. Hundreds have risked their lives to reach the UK this month alone
Others held their head in their hands as they perched on a pavement.
The group were spotted around 9.30am and were taken away by a coach around 12pm.
Dozens more are believed to have been picked up off the coast of Dover.
Local photographer Susan Pilcher said on Thursday: ‘We had quite a storm over here last night.
‘I was out taking pictures of it until about 1.45am and there were some real lightning strikes – it really showed how much they’re willing to risk to get here by crossing in those conditions.
‘I have no idea how they didn’t die coming over in one of those dinghies. It’s heartbreaking.’
She added: ‘They landed on the beach, which has a really muddy area where people get stuck quite often. The migrants didn’t get stuck – but they must have got through it pretty quickly.’
The crossings come after 71 migrants were picked up in six boats off the Kent coast on Wednesday.
A council yesterday warned it is ‘days away’ from being unable to look after any more asylum seeking youngsters.
Kent County Council’s leader Roger Gough fears more than 100 children could arrive without parents in August – a monthly figure not seen since 2015.
It comes after some 420 unaccompanied children crossed the Channel without their parents this year, with around 70 arriving in August so far.
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover following a number of small boat incidents in the Channelon Thursday
A group of people thought to be migrants disembark a Border Force vessel at Dover Port on Thursday
A group of people, including a child, were brought into Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers on Thursday
At least 20 migrants arrived on Kent’s beaches in Dover and Greatstone on Thursday
Children were among the refugees to arrive in Kent on Thursday as migrants crossed the sea
Migrants were seen being escorted off a Border Force patrol boat in Dover on Thursday, on the tenth day of arrivals across The Channel
A toddler was seen crying in his father’s arms after being picked up by Border Force on Thursday
The family were on a boat that had crossed The Channel from France carrying refugees on Thursday
Councillor Gough yesterday said: ‘One (centre) which we actually emptied last week and which we reopened on Saturday, we are now almost full already. So this is the pace at which events are moving.
‘The real question is what we can do to sustain that reception for those young people if the arrivals continue at the rate they do and we are unable to place those children with other local authorities.
‘I think we are now potentially days away, depending on the rate of arrivals, from turning around and having to say we cannot deliver all our statutory responsibilities and that is going to be a major step for the council.’
The unaccompanied children who arrive in Kent remain in the council’s care system ‘for quite a number of years,’ Mr Gough said.
The numbers peaked on August 6 when 235 made it to the UK – a single-day record.
The Government has asked for military assistance to deal with crossings.
So far that has taken the form of two RAF planes, but there are also plans to deploy the Royal Navy in the Channel.
Priti Patel told Tory MPs the asylum system is ‘broken’ as she promised to introduce laws that would ‘send the left into meltdown’, The Times reported on Thursday.
After arriving in Kent on Thursday migrants were taken for coronavirus screening and then taken to a detention centre
The Home Secretary said the system was being ‘exploited by leftie Labour-supporting lawyers’ who were doing everything they could to stop the Government removing people.
Shadow secretary of state for justice David Lammy said the ‘leftie lawyers’ comments were ‘extremely distasteful’.
He added: ‘Caricaturing an entire profession, which is subject to a code of conduct and upholds the rule of law, is dangerous and unbecoming of a serious Home Secretary.’
Ms Patel’s newly appointed Clandestine Channel Threat Commander, Dan O’Mahoney, said: ‘These crossings are dangerous and unnecessary and I am determined to stop them.
‘The minister and I met with French officials in Paris on Tuesday for discussions on how to advance joint working on making the small boats route for illegal migration unviable.
‘We will continue to go after the heinous criminals and organised crime networks putting people’s lives at risk.’
The Mayor of Calais said Britain sending in the Navy to police the Channel would be ‘a declaration of maritime war’ amid a sharp rise in the number of migrants making the perilous crossing.
Mayor Natacha Bouchart responded to Ms Patel’s formal request for help from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) as the number of people making the life-threatening journey continues to climb.
The Calais Mayor said in an interview with France 3: ‘I think the [French] government would oppose it.
‘Here we are hostile to it. Rather than accept migrants who would work in the black market, Boris Johnson would do better than to teach us lessons, would be better to create better laws to to accept people in his own country.
‘The British themselves have created this hot air by not reviewing their own reception systems and are content to hand out lessons and by subjecting the people of Calais to this situation for too long.’
A military plane was sent out on Monday to survey the Channel and alert the Coastguard and Border Force to emerging crossing attempts.
Migrants were escorted through the harbour, where they will go through Covid-19 screening on Thursday
The yard in Dover was completely packed with dozens of small boats used by groups to try and reach the UK on Thursday
Border Force have intercepted thousands of refugees making the illegal crossing from France so far this year
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Police search home of elderly parents accused of murdering their disabled son 28 years ago
Police have searched the home of elderly parents accused of murdering their disabled son, 23, almost 30 years ago.
Steven Clark went to visit the toilet while on a family walk near Saltburn Pier in Cleveland in December 1992 but was never seen again.
His elderly parents Doris and Charles, who live in Marske-by-the-Sea, Cleveland, this week confirmed they had been arrested on suspicion of his murder, with his mother describing the situation as ‘absolutely ludicrous’.
Cleveland Police made the arrests following a cold case review and specialist officers began their investigations in the back garden of the couple’s home on Friday.
There was a large police presence outside of the neat semi-detached house, with three police cars, a police van and a crime scene investigation vehicle.
Doris and Charles Clark, parents of missing Steven Clark, leaving Kirkleatham Police station in Redcar on Wednesday afternoon
Specialist officers began their investigations in the back garden of the Marske property on Friday. Pictured, detectives going inside the house
A police cordon was erected across a public footpath that runs down the side of the house.
A number of tools, including a generator, concrete breaker and numerous spades, were placed on the grass in front of the police van.
As the searches progressed Friday afternoon, detectives were spotted going inside the Clark’s home.
Officers began taking large bags of kit into the property just after lunchtime, as one officer remained stationed at the top of the drive.
A red Citroën car remained parked on the drive throughout the day. Doris, 81, and Charles Clark, 78, were not seen and a white Toyota car – they have been previously photographed using – was not there either.
Steven (pictured) walked with a pronounced limp as a result of a childhood road accident which also left him with other disabilities
A police cordon was erected across a public footpath that runs down the side of the house in Marske-by-the-Sea, Cleveland
It comes after police asked an anonymous letter writer, who contacted officers in September 1999, to get in touch again.
Police said their records showed the letter was assessed by officers and the information was recorded.
However, the force is refusing to reveal the content of the letter or why it is now seen as important more than 20 years after it was sent.
Detectives from the Cleveland and North Yorkshire Cold Case Unit had reopened the case and have been conducting an investigation into the circumstances of the 23-year-old’s disappearance.
As a result of this, and due to there being no proof of life, detectives believe that Steven has come to serious harm and a murder inquiry has been launched.
During the first day of the latest searches on Thursday officers combed through a woodland and fields near to where Steven lived
Steven vanished mysteriously on Monday, December 28, 1992 in Saltburn.
A missing persons report said that he was last seen at 3pm. The 23-year-old, who lived in nearby Marske, was said to have gone into a public toilet while his mother went into the ladies.
He was not seen coming out of the gents on the town’s seaside promenade, and did not return home.
Over the years his parents made several appeals for information in trying to find their son.
During the first day of the latest searches on Thursday officers combed through a woodland and fields near to where Steven lived.
Police vehicles were parked off the Coast Road, at Marske Stray car park, and officers carried out inspections of the undergrowth, along the path from the sea front.
Police vehicles were parked off the Coast Road, at Marske Stray car park, and officers carried out inspections of the undergrowth, along the path from the sea front
Officers combed through the bushes and trees, using sticks to help them explore the undergrowth.
Teams worked their way along the greenery, next to a path along the rear of Outwood Academy Bydales, in Marske.
Despite the police presence in the area the path remained open to dog walkers and cyclists.
Police vehicles were also parked outside the secondary school and officers searched the fields near the school.
Steven Clark vanished 28 years ago after he walked into a public toilet near Saltburn Pier and never emerged
Steven left his home in Marske for on a family walk before using the gents’ public toilets near the pier on the promenade at Saltburn, Cleveland, while his mother went into the ladies’ at the same time. He was never seen again
Detective Chief Inspector Shaun Page asked the letter writer to call Crimestoppers anonymously or the investigation team directly and give them any additional information they may have.
He said: ‘For operational reasons I can’t divulge the contents or topic of the letter, but it was sent through the post and addressed to the incident room at Guisborough Police Station.
‘The person who sent it may know more that could help our inquiry team.
‘They obviously felt compelled to write the letter seven years after his disappearance and I would like to hear from them again now.
‘It’s clear from the response that we have had overall from the public that a lot of people knew Steven from living in Marske.
‘I would like to thank the local community for their co-operation in this investigation so far.
‘We do still want people to come forward and tell us if they knew Steven or if they have any information that would benefit the inquiry.’
Mr and Mrs Clark were pictured leaving Kirkleatham Police Station in Redcar, Cleveland, after being quizzed for more than six hours
Missing person posters were issued at the time of Mr Clark’s disappearance
A report said that when Steven did not come out the public toilet his mother assumed he had gone home, but he was never seen again.
Police would not reveal the age or sex of the two arrested people, but on Tuesday Mrs Clark confirmed she and her husband had been arrested, saying: ‘It’s just absolutely ludicrous. There’s nothing more to say, it’s surreal.’
Asked if they denied murdering their son, she replied: ‘Absolutely, yes.
‘It’s just too hard to believe really, but we have to believe it and suffer the consequences.’
She said being on bail was ‘horrendous’, adding: ‘There’s nothing I can say, except for the shock of being arrested.
‘It’s difficult isn’t it? ‘You get so tense and upset, we’ve just got to get on with it, I’m afraid. There’s nothing we can do, just wait and hope we get through it.’
Mr and Mrs Clark were pictured leaving the station in Cleveland six hours after arriving.
Speaking on the doorstep as they arrived home in the evening, Mrs Clark added: ‘We’ve just got back, we’ve been there all day.’
Doris and Charles Clark, the parents of missing Steven Clark, arriving at Kirkleatham Police station in Redcar Wednesday morning
Police have urged an anonymous letter writer, who contacted police in September 1999, to get in touch again
Doris Clark pictured in 1998 outside the toilets on Saltburn beach, the last place her son Steven was seen
She admitted the last few days have been tough following the sudden accusation, but she and Charles maintain they are innocent.
She said: ‘After all these years we still wonder what happened to him.
‘We didn’t kill Steven. That’s all I can really add at the moment, we just hope a good outcome comes out of it.’
Asked if she thought publicity about the case could help solve the mystery, she replied: ‘It’s 28 years ago. How on earth can anyone remember anything on that day?
‘How can they (the police) ask other people, I cannot imagine anybody would remember.
‘They (the police) have to do their job and that’s it.’
Mrs Clark said her husband was ‘all right’, adding: ‘It’s gone on for all these years, it’s a nightmare really, nobody seems to understand that.’
The couple, who also have a daughter, have been supported by friends, Mrs Clark said.
Their son walked with a pronounced limp as a result of a childhood road accident which also left him with other disabilities.
At the time he disappeared, he attended the Rathbone Society in Redcar, which worked with people with disabilities to improve their employment skills, and he had won the Apprentice of the Year Award.
Speaking in 1997, Mrs Clark said her son ‘vanished in a puff of smoke with no warning or even a word of goodbye’.
She said at the time: ‘I started to wonder if someone had frogmarched him away at gunpoint.’
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Coronavirus: Landlords warn nationwide restrictions will shut pubs for good
Pub landlords have warned that a second lockdown could see pubs close for good unless the Government provides a support package, as fears of a second coronavirus wave increase.
Campaign for Real Ale, a voluntary organisation which promotes British pubs, has warned that a second national coronavirus lockdown could have a ‘terrifying impact’ on pubs across the UK.
The national chairman Nik Antona has urged the Government to introduce a support package for pubs to reintroduce the full furlough scheme amid fears of a second coronavirus wave.
Campaign for Real Ale, which promotes pubs across Britain, has warned that a second national coronavirus lockdown could see pubs closing for good across the UK. Pictured, The Montagu Pyke in London on July 4
Nik Antona added: ‘The prospect of a second lockdown will be a terrifying impact on publicans who have invested money and time making their premises COVID secure and who are still struggling to return to growth two month after reopening.
‘If another lockdown is announced, the Government must immediately introduce a new, comprehensive support package for pubs that includes extending the business rates holiday for another year, reintroducing the full furlough scheme, and announcing new hospitality support grants.
‘This will be the only way to avoid mass pub closures and job losses.
‘The vast majority of publicans and pub-goers across the country are doing the right thing.
‘They are acting responsibly and willing to do whatever is necessary to provide a safe, Covid-secure place for people to enjoy the wellbeing benefits of having a pint with friends and family.’
In other coronavirus news:
- Another 4,322 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19, the Government announced today in the highest one-day rise since May 8;
- Nationwide testing fiasco continues as ministers have defended the testing system decide people waiting for hours at Covid facilities for swabs;
- The Health Secretary has warned another blanket national lockdown was the ‘last line of defence’ but said now is a ‘big moment for the country’;
- A leading scientist also warned that Covid testing ‘is dying on its a**e’, as he said he was ‘appalled by what I saw’ at Government testing labs;
- London mayor Sadiq Khan has cancelled the capital’s New Year celebrations and warned that the city is only two weeks behind areas of the country plunged into local lockdowns;
- Health bosses revealed Birmingham’s NHS Nightingale hospitals has been told to be ready to be reopened within just 48 hours
It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that another blanket national lockdown was the ‘last line of defence’ but said now is a ‘big moment for the country’.
Another swathe of England is being ordered into coronavirus lockdown as Mr Hancock today admitted that a new national Covid squeeze is on the cards.
Curbs including curfew on pubs and restaurants and a ban on socialising outside of households are being introduced across parts of the North West, Midlands and West Yorkshire from Tuesday.
Some supermarkets and food retailers have already put contingency plans in place if the testing system buckles. Above, people enjoy a drink in Liverpool on September 18
Some supermarkets and food retailers have already put contingency plans in place if the testing system buckles.
Brakes, a food wholesaler, who have been operating throughout the pandemic, said: ‘We’ve got very strong contingency plans in place which include temperature checks before being allowed on site.
‘Only essential people on site and stringent policies once people are there, which has meant that so far we have had very few people showing COVID-like symptoms.’
The Co-op group said that funeral care staff are on the key worker list so can get priority testing, but their food workers are not.
A spokesman said: ‘We’ve built a model where we know that we have access to variable colleague resources at fairly short notice, so we have some resilience on that.
‘Clearly we all hope that the testing capability will continue to strengthen and improve but we’ve got some protection in place, because the Co-op has had to deal with this throughout.
‘It’s clearly a real challenge and anything that can be done to help the [testing] situation [is welcome].’
Visitors show a member of staff a mobile phone screen at a drive through test centre in south London today
The Health Secretary has announced that Covid tests could be rationed with a ‘priority list’ to make sure that environments such as care homes and hospitals would have enough tests.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also admitted that there is not enough capacity in the testing system after demand ‘massively accelerated’ in recent weeks.
Bosses also fear that office staff will soon be back working from home within weeks due to the current testing fiasco – as supermarkets make contingency plans if workers can’t get swabbed.
The Government has come under fire after widespread reports of people having to travel hundreds of miles to get checked and being unable to book a test at all.
This is despite Ministers pledging that testing capacity will hit 500,000 a day by the end of October.
The test and trace system has buckled under the pressure since children returned to school and the Government made a concerted effort to encourage people back into the office in order to try and kickstart the flagging UK economy.
Business leaders have displayed concerns about the current testing system and emphasised that it working effectively will be vital for getting employees back to work and boosting the UK economy.
Matt Fell CBI, UK Chief Policy Director, said if the Government wants to encourage people into their workplace safely then the test and trace system will be a ‘key component.’
There have been long queues at some Covid testing sites, such as this one in Southend-on-Sea, but others have been deserted despite people struggling to get screened
‘Reports of people being unable to access tests in their area or waiting too long to get the results will be deeply frustrating for individual and businesses alike,’ he added.
‘No one doubts how much effort is going in to get it right. The prize is having a faster turnaround in getting results which will let people know where they stand and whether they need to self-isolate or can return to work quickly.’
Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told the Financial Times, the Government needed to improve the testing facility ‘immediately’.
‘A truly comprehensive test and trace programme is essential if the UK is to manage the virus without further lockdowns which will cripple businesses.’
‘Continuing delays and a shortage of tests saps business, staff and consumer confidence at a fragile moment for the economy.’
Business leaders are becoming increasingly anxious that members of staff will be left self-isolating at home with family members waiting for test results to come back, rather than being back in the office during a pivotal moment for the UK economy.
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Congestion clogs the capital as crossings at Hammersmith and Vauxhall are CLOSED
They are an emblem of Britain’s engineering prowess and steeped in hundreds of years of history, but pictures reveal how London‘s bridges are disintegrating into the Thames as they suffer through lack of funds.
In recent months a number of the Capital’s bridges have either needed emergency repairs or been closed to the public due to fears they are structurally unsafe.
It comes as new traffic-calming measures and schemes to fine motorists have been brought into force, with lockdown used as an excuse to make the city a cyclist’s paradise and pure hell for drivers.
Hammersmith bridge was closed to motorists ‘indefinitely’ in April after ‘critical faults’ were detected.
The 133-year-old cast iron suspension bridge in west London remains on ‘amber alert’ due to high temperatures putting it under increased risk of collapsing. It was closed to pedestrians and cyclists last month after a heatwave made the cracks ‘significantly increase’, causing fury among residents.
In late August, Tower Bridge caused gridlock as it closed for 48 hours after it suffered ‘technical issues’ resulting in the iconic structure remaining in the upright position. Along the river, Vauxhall Bridge and London Bridge are closed to car traffic as urgent repair work takes place.
This week, thermometers are being fitted and the suspension chains are being cooled with water. Engineers warn that if the chains reach 22.5C a ‘red alert’ will be declared, according to the Evening Standard.
Londoners last night slammed Mayor Sadiq Khan as he repeated his call on the Government to give TfL and Hammersmith Council, ‘the financial support to get Hammersmith Bridge repaired and reopened.’
But critics hit out at the Labour Mayor for ‘wasting’ money on failed projects including the doomed £53.5 million ‘garden bridge’ project.
Yesterday it emerged that it will be at least nine months before £46million of work can make Hammersmith bridge safe again for cyclists and pedestrians. It could cost as much as £163million and take two years for cars to get back to using it.
Shaun Bailey, the Tory nominee for next year’s mayoral election, told MailOnline: ‘London’s bridges are falling down. And strangely enough, London’s bridges are the responsibility of London’s Mayor.
‘But instead of fixing our bridges, Sadiq Khan has spent four years blaming the government and avoiding responsibility.
‘I’m grateful Grant Shapps followed my advice and took over the restoration of Hammersmith Bridge. But Sadiq Khan should be asking himself why the government is doing the Mayor’s job for him.’
An engineer abseils from Lambeth Bridge on September 17, as he works on the lighting system for the ‘Illuminated River’ public art commission that will eventually see 14 bridges on the river Thames lit up at night,
In recent months a number of the Capital’s bridges have either needed emergency repairs, or been closed to the public entirely due to fears they are structurally unsafe
A cyclist negotiates the closed paths and alleyways around Hammersmith Bridge which has now been closed for nearly a year and a half due to safety concerns, on September 17
Campaign groups have called for the repairs to be carried out in full and at speed, as roads and commutes become harder as people return to work after the COVID-19 lockdown. Pictured, Lambeth Bridge
In late August, Tower Bridge was closed for 48 hours after it suffered ‘technical issues’ resulting in the iconic bridge remaining in the upright position
Warning signs direct pedestrians around the works taking place on Vauxhall Bridge
Warning signs direct river traffic near Hammersmith Bridge which has now been closed for nearly a year and a half due to safety concerns
WHAT IS THE TASK FORCE’S JOB?
The Government task force will be responsible for opening Hammersmith Bridge bridge ‘as speedily as possible’, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said.
The task force will be led by transport minister Baroness Vere and will initially try to reopen the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, before moving on to motor traffic.
It has also been confirmed that the Department for Transport has commissioned its own engineering advice on the condition of the bridge.
The Department of Transport have said the situation needs to be resolved ‘as soon as possible’.
The Department will also continue to work with local groups and stakeholders, and consider all the options for a solution.
This could include temporary measures that could be brought in to help with local traffic.
The Rotherhithe Tunnel and Blackwall Tunnel have also been identified by TfL as needing major work.
The Conservative MP for Chelsea and Fulham, Greg Hands, worked out that between 2015 and 2019, TfL spent some £5.3 million on ‘monitoring’ Hammersmith Bridge.
By 2016, a repair plan budgeted at £27 million had been agreed but TfL never quite got round to starting it. Last year, a few days after the Boat Race, engineers suddenly noticed that things were much worse and so the bridge was closed overnight to all traffic. By then, the repair bill was put at £40 million. Now, it is around £163 million.
A Government task force has now been launched to reopen Hammersmith Bridge after it closed to motor traffic last year due to structural problems.
However Khan told Mayor’s Question Time yesterday: ‘While I welcome any effort to engage with us I can’t say that setting up a taskforce sounds like it will give Londoners the quick solution they so desperately need.’
The new task force will be responsible for opening the bridge ‘as speedily as possible’, first reopening to cyclists and pedestrians at a ‘minimum’.
A Government task force had originally been launched to reopen the bridge after it first closed to motor traffic last year, then to pedestrians this year.
It was announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who slammed a ‘lack of leadership’ in the capital to fix Hammersmith Bridge.
He said earlier this month: ‘There has been a lack of leadership in London on reopening this vital bridge.
‘It’s stopped Londoners moving about easily and caused huge inconvenience to everyone, adding extra time to their commute or journeys.
‘We won’t let hard working Londoners suffer any longer. The Government is setting up a task force to establish the next steps in opening the bridge as speedily as possible.
‘We’ll be decisive and quick to make sure we can take steps that’ll be good for commuters, good for residents and good for business.’
The task force will be led by transport minister Baroness Vere and the priority is initially trying to reopen the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, before moving on to motor traffic.
It has been confirmed that the Department for Transport has commissioned its own engineering advice on the condition of the bridge.
The Department will also continue to work with local groups and stakeholders to consider all the options for a solution to the structural problems.
This could include temporary crossings being could brought in to help with local traffic pressures if it cannot be made safe as quickly as possible.
Residents have previously demanded a temporary bridge to be put in place as anger has increased around a year-and-a-half after the initial closure in 2019.
Micro-fractures were discovered in the structure in 2014 when the council leader commissioned a structural integrity review of all aspects of the bridge’s suspension structure, which began in 2015.
The bridge originally remained open to pedestrians and cyclists but closed after Hammersmith and Fulham Council said the 34C heatwave had caused the cracks in the bridge to ‘significantly increase’ and widen.
An engineer applies protective sheeting to part of the structure of Hammersmith Bridge which remains closed to vehicles and pedestrians
Warning signs direct pedestrians around the closed pathways near Hammersmith Bridge
Engineers look at progress on the on installation of the lighting system for the ‘Illuminated River’ public art commission
Hammersmith bridge is placed on ‘amber alert’ with high temperatures putting it under increased risk of collapsing
Vauxhall Bridge (pictured) and London Bridge are closed to car traffic as urgent repair work takes place
The fixtures and rivets are seen on the underside of Tower Bridge
Patches of rust and decay are seen on Lambeth Bridge. A number of London’s bridges have recently either needed emergency repairs, or have been closed to the public entirely due to fears that they are structurally unsafe
An engineer applies protective sheeting to part of the structure of Hammersmith Bridge
Parents of pupils at £39,000-a-year St Paul’s School have been ferrying them across the Thames in BOATS due to Hammersmith Bridge closure
Bridge over troubled water: No Hammermith route means much longer journey for pupils
Fed-up parents of pupils at a £39,000-a-year bankside school have been using small boats to cross the River Thames after Hammersmith Bridge was closed for repairs.
Mothers and fathers with children at boys-only St Paul’s School near Barnes, south west London, have been secretly doing drop-offs in the tiny vessels after the route was shut.
Teachers and staff are understood to be unaware of the enterprising water-based school run and have even laid on buses themselves to try and tackle the problem.
But parents have been using the ‘tin fish’ nicknamed boats – which are usually used for coaching rowers – to nip across the Thames.
The problem has got so bad the river community have been emailed telling them the Port of London Authority is on the lookout for any of the crossings.
It considers the issue so serious it has warned it will take enforcement action if any are caught in the act.
A boating community insider told MailOnline: ‘These are the little coaching boats, that usually escort rowers out onto the river. They are small metal things with an outboard motor on the back, so can go pretty well.
‘As enterprising as it is for parents, a trip like that is obviously fraught with danger.
‘Everyone is annoyed the bridge is shut, but this doesn’t seem like a risk worth taking.’
St Paul’s School, which says it caters for gifted boys aged 7 to 18 years, charges £12,997 per tem to boarding pupils and £8,636 per term to non-boarders.
Hammersmith Bridge, which is maintained by Hammersmith and Fulham London Borough Council, was estimated to have been used by 4,000 students a day to get to school before it was shut last month.
Parents of children at St Paul’s School have not told teachers about the water journeys
The structure had to be shut over widening cracks were found, meaning some pupils have to go on three-hour commutes just to get taught.
It had previously serviced St Paul’s as well as Harrodian, which costs £8,147 for sixth formers.
New estimates on repairs say it will be at least nine months before £46million of work can make the bridge safe again for cyclists and pedestrians.
The Port of London Authority confirmed it was aware of the boats being used to cross the river.
A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘The PLA are aware of instances of small ‘tin fish’ boats being used to carry people across at Hammersmith.
‘These are very small boats designed to be used for the coaching of rowing activity – ie to carry coaching crew during rowing practice and rowing events.
‘These boats are not designed to carry passengers. We have spoken to the people responsible for this unsafe activity and advised them very clearly about the safety risks involved and that ‘tin fish’ should not be used for such ‘passenger ferry’ use at any time.
‘We do understand the difficulties caused by the sudden closure of Hammersmith Bridge. The PLA continues to discuss with the bridge owner – London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, with TfL and the Department for Transport possible options to achieve a temporary crossing – either a temporary bridge or a dedicated passenger boat service.’
The school is yet to comment.
An engineer abseils from Lambeth Bridge as he works on the lighting system for the ‘Illuminated River’ public art commission
It led the local authority, which owns the bridge, to close the crossing to all users and ban vessels from sailing underneath it on August 13.
The bridge was estimated to be used by around 16,000 pedestrians and cyclists a day before the additional closure.
August’s announcement led to protests from residents who were furious at the lengthy journeys they were forced to take, rather than walking across the bridge.
Pedestrians, including hundred of schoolchildren, have been forced to divert via Barnes Bridge, with traffic having to use Chiswick and Putney bridges instead.
There have also been concerns from eco-enthusiasts that it would discourage people from cycling and walking, leading to further traffic build-ups.
A statement from Hammersmith and Fulham Council said: ‘Hammersmith Bridge is closed to pedestrians and river traffic from 5pm today (13 August) because of an increased risk to public safety due to a sudden deterioration in key parts of the suspension structure.
‘Specialist engineers have been undertaking 24/7 monitoring of the structural integrity of the bridge throughout using an extensive network of sensors on the 19th century structure.
‘The deterioration in the structure was exacerbated by the recent heatwave which caused cracks to significantly increase – despite measures taken to mitigate the heat.
‘The bridge will remain closed until the engineers are confident that it is safe to re-open to pedestrians and river traffic.
‘It means that pedestrians and cyclists must now cross the river elsewhere, while all river traffic under the bridge will also be stopped – including the pedestrian walkways under Hammersmith Bridge – while engineers examine the extent of the damage.’
The council wrote a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson later that month stating the estimated cost to make it safe and ‘avoid a potential catastrophic failure’ is £46million.
The letter said: ‘No local authority has that kind of money available. We therefore write to ask that the Government funds this work as a matter of urgency.’
Upon closure in 2019, Hammersmith Bridge had been about to undergo a full refurbishment, which engineers estimated at the time would cost £120million and take three years to complete.
Transport for London then provided £25million for preparatory repair work.
The council said in February there had been ‘good progress’ on the refurbishments.
The latest news comes after months of arguments about who should pay for the bridge’s repair bill, which has been estimated to cost more than £140million.
Hammersmith Bridge, designed by civil engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette and opened in 1887, is made from cast iron and is one of two of its kind in the world.
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