The final bill for a bridge never built in London has been revealed and the sum is an eye-watering £53m – with approximately £43m of that figure being from the public purse.
Transport for London (TfL) has unveiled the finer details as part of its “commitment to transparency” and the documents show that construction contracts worth £21m were awarded to a Bouygues JV, while consulting firm Arup landed deals worth £12m.
Granted planning permission in 2014, it was back during the time of the Olympics in 2012 when the idea really started to gather pace when the former mayor of London Boris Johnson supported the bridge and announced TfL would help make it to reality.
It was hoped that the construction would see a new footbridge across the Thames linking Temple and South Bank.
Despite initially being taken on by his successor Sadiq Khan, the plans were eventually scrapped in August 2017 when Khan said he would not provide guarantees for the planned bridge because it would leave taxpayers in the capital at risk of higher bills.
It followed a scathing report by Dame Margaret Hodge that recommended ditching the proposed Thames crossing because it was "difficult to justify further public investment" in the bridge. Some £60m of the £200m needed had been pledged through public funding, but only £69m of private funding had been promised, leaving a gap of £70m, according to the report.
The bridge however has had notable backers including Joanna Lumley and former prime minister David Cameron who went against the advice of established civil servants not to provide further taxpayer funds to the Garden Bridge Trust (which managed the project), the National Audit Office revealed in 2016.
TfL will now pay the trust £5.5m, it says the payment is 40% lower than what it could have been, and will come from Department for Transport (DfT) funding. The public sector bill will be split between the DfT, which will pay £19m and TfL, which will pay £24m.
Figures published today also show that the charity behind the failed project spent £161,000 on a website and £417,000 on a gala event which looked to gain more support within the capital. Executives for the trust also pocketed £1.7m.
TfL say their investigations shows that the Bouygues JV was appointed to “progress the design as submitted at tender” and that a Pre-Construction design development period enabled them to “progress the design using contractor, plan construction methodology and develop a robust and reliable programme”.
A payment of £2.1m was also made for the “the demobilisation of staff, offices and repatriation of plant and labour upon suspending the contract”.
Almost a year to the day, the former mayor of London Boris Johnson appeared at City Hall to defend the controversial scheme which would eventually cost the public over £40m. He was in defiant mood speaking to London Assembly members and reaffirmed how it would have been a “fantastic thing for London” and its failure remained a “bitter disappointment”.
Speaking on 2 March, Johnson said: “If I had gone on as mayor then I would have continued the project and it would never have been money down the drain. The decision to scrap it would not have been the decision I would have taken were I still doing the job I once did. I did see there to be a transport case for the bridge and there would have been a fantastic park too, it made sense and had a business case.”
Commenting on the details published, Alex Williams, director of City Planning at Transport for London said: “As part of our continuing commitment to transparency, we have published the final financial breakdown for the Garden Bridge project, on behalf of the Trust, as well as all evidence sought as part of this review. This formally ends our involvement with the project.”