A garden bridge sounds like a lovely idea, a slice of paradise in a congested city, an oasis, a sylvan glade suspended above the murk. Imagine the moment of tranquillity and delight as you cross the bridge on the way to your office, breathe the purified air, delight in the trees and shrubbery, meander from the South Bank to The Temple. The bridge was the brainchild of Joanna Lumley, who I’m sure meant well.
When Lumley got together with her designer chum, Thomas Heatherwick, the big wheels went into motion and contracts were put up for bidding. Ex mayor, Boris Johnson, championed the project. His Deputy Mayor for Transport, US lawyer Isabel Dedring started the procurement process along with TFL’s Richard de Cani. The design contract went to Thomas Heatherwick, and de Cani selected the city firm ARUP, (a firm de Cani now works for apparently), to engineer the bridge. Some time after that, Isabel Dedring ditched her old government job for a top-tier position at, er, ARUP.
Luckily for Londoners, canny old Sadiq Khan is refusing to pour any more public money into the project, which was supposed to be privately funded. (Don’t laugh). It was meant to cost 60m, but Labour MP Margaret Hodge estimates an expected cost of over 200m. That overspend would no doubt have raided the public purse. Meanwhile, the riff-raff footing the cost would be barred from the bridge each month so that the city corporates could host champers and canape parties in the name of ‘corporate fundraising’. Then we would have had to shell out for yearly maintenance of up to 4m. Well, by the time this fiasco is through, we’ll have only lost 46m instead of circa quarter of a billion. It’s some consolation perhaps. Thank goodness Boris is no longer our city mayor!
Oh, but what the money could have done for the city. We could have had more green spaces at a fraction of the cost, some new homes? Better trains? More jobs?
There really ought to be an official investigation, but that would end up costing us taxpayers yet again, and benefit more lawyers. Mayor Khan is right to withdraw his support. We’ve slung enough dosh into the river. Finito!
Image by Marvelous Roland