A full investigation is required to find out why so much public money was wasted and make sure it never happens again but while the Garden Bridge is dead in the water, the need for bridges in East London is set to continue.
Let us be quite clear London needs more bridges. You just have to look at the movement of cars from South East London into Central London via Blackwall or Rotherhithe tunnel and you can appreciate it. Just as critically it is also needed to stem the isolation of places like Thamesmead, a town created within London by the GLC.
But any new bridge in London needs to be East of Tower Bridge linking East London with South-East London but certainly not in Central or in West London where you can be going on & off the bridges by car and you lose any sense of which side of London you are actually on!
Indeed at the end of Ken Livingstone time at City Hall, we had a proposed Thames Gateway Bridge linking Beckton in East London with the remote area of Thamesmead and putting them on the map for the first time. But this half a billion project immediately died a death with Boris Johnson new administration even though it had all the approvals to let the contract and would have been operational in 2013.
Little was heard of bridge proposals in the rest of Boris Johnson time till the Garden Bridge came up towards the end of his second term at City Hall. With a concerted media campaign and influential backers like the Chancellor of Exchequer of the day Gideon ( George ) Osborne it suddenly drew a lot of attention not dissimilar to other projects like the Emirate cable cars and Arcelormittal Orbit slide which caught the eye of the Mayor. Illustrating well again Boris Johnson as Mayor of London complete incompetence to strategically look at London while pursuing media generated hyped projects at huge expense to the public purse.
Not only did they want tens of millions subsidy for the construction of the Garden Bridge but they also tried to get the running costs of the bridge subsided by public purse and Westminster council did well to put a stop to it, as owners of the landing at the Temple.
The Garden Bridge ultimately was completely in the wrong place, essentially a tourist attraction and was not adding to the transport infrastructure of London, so it did not warrant any public monies. So quite how Transport for London (TfL) signed up to it, is beyond me and they do need to explain themselves. Along with their senior staff, we should also add all the construction consultants from firms like Arup who appear to have been paid handsomely for professional services which has not produced anything at all for the public realm.
How a pair of Bullingdon Club boys wasted tens of million pounds public money for their pet projects the Garden Bridge is beyond many while in public office needs through investigating as well. Also, l dare say Joanna Lumley role in it all needs looking into as well. She appears to cast a spell on politicians particularly those who she’s had on sitting on her knees! It all adds to the feel that some can get away with murder or at least spending our money without accounting for themselves. Heads must roll but I doubt it will with them.
So while an investigative inquiry is imperative, let us not allow the final legacy of the Garden Bridge to be the death of any other bridge proposals across the Thames, as we will no doubt need them. Oddly enough TfL at the end of Boris’s time returned to bridge proposals in East London.
A version of this blog has also been published in Westminster Extra this week.