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Garden Bridge Cost for Taxpayers Revealed

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

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Taxpayers will be covering 81 percent of the 53 million pounds ($69.1 million) spent on the foiled Thomas Heatherwick Garden Bridge project, according to reports. The news arrives on the heels of Transport for London making a call to issue a final payment of 5.5 million pounds to the charity behind the project.

Transport for London noted that, after obtaining legal advice, the agency had no choice but to pay the money. According to The Guardian, 43 million pounds of what was spent was public money—24 million pounds from Transport for London, and 19 million pounds from the Department for Transport.

Project Background

The nonprofit Garden Bridge Trust announced in August 2017 that it was “winding up” the project, which had already cost London taxpayers an estimated 37.4 million pounds. However, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced in late April 2018 that he was pulling city support from the project, citing what he called “exorbitant” costs to build and maintain the structure.

The pedestrian bridge would have spanned the Thames between the Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, near landmarks like the Tate Modern. Plans called for the bridge to be covered with vegetation, including 270 trees, and the structure would have been plated with nickel-copper cladding that supporters said would have been maintenance-free for 120 years.

Arup

Taxpayers will be covering 81 percent of the 53 million pounds ($69.1 million) spent on the foiled Thomas Heatherwick Garden Bridge project, according to reports. The news arrives on the heels of Transport for London making a call to issue a final payment of 5.5 million pounds to the charity behind the project.

The bridge, designed by Heatherwick Studio with help from engineers at Arup and landscape architect Dan Pearson, was originally slated to be completed in 2018. The Trust awarded the construction contract to a joint venture of Bouygues Travaux Publics and Cimolai SpA, and said it planned for the bridge to open in 2019.

Former London mayor Boris Johnson was called forward in December 2017 to answer questions regarding the ill-fated project. In March 2018, Johnson alleged that he could not recall why he signed the key directive as mayor of London, while also noting that the funding conditions had been met by the charity behind the project. He was subsequently asked why he had watered down some of these conditions.

In May 2018, a report indicated that the Trust was made aware of several problems with the project before the contract was signed for construction to begin—and of the fact that there was no guarantee the funding could be raised to address these issues.

In December, wealthy individuals who provided financial donations to the project began seeking to sue the charity behind the endeavor, with one alleging that the money had been flushed away when the project fell apart.

And earlier this year, the London Assembly issued a demand for correspondence from Transport for London that was written in communication with the project’s Trust.

Transport for London Payment

According to The Guardian, a recent review found that the Trust wound up spending 70 percent of its public money allocation without actually starting construction.

Legal advice was granted after another source of legal advice noted that the trustees of the bridge project neglected their duties to act with reasonable care and skill. A spokesperson for Transport for London noted that the agency has concluded the review of the Trust’s request for an underwriting payment, confirming that the final amount still payable to the Trust totaled 5.5 million pounds.

“This will come from DfT funding, and include around 500,000 [pounds] for future liabilities and contingency associated with the formal wind-up of the trust in accordance with Charity Commission requirements,” the spokesperson said.

“‘It is around 40 [percent] lower than it could have been. This also means the final public sector spend will be around 43 million [pounds]—split between 24 million [pounds] from TfL and 19 million [pounds] from the DfT.”

The spokesperson went on to add that Transport for London had sought legal advice following concerns raised regarding whether the trustees of the Trust possibly breaching their legal duties.  

“We worked to ensure that the cost to the public sector has been kept to a minimum, and having carefully reviewed the Garden Bridge Trust’s request, we have now confirmed the final payment legally required under the terms of the underwriting agreement made by the government. This formally ends our involvement with the project,” said Transport for London Director of City Planning Alex Williams.

According to The Guardian, 11 million pounds of private money would not be returned, but other donations would be returned because of certain conditions.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; EU; Europe; Government; Lawsuits; Program/Project Management; Project Management

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