As if there have not been enough money-wasting projects implemented in the capital already – think Bozza’s vanity cable car, Bozza’s vanity buses, and Bozza’s vanity cycle hire scheme – Londoners are now to have a Garden Bridge imposed on them, whether they like it or not. And, like all the other vanity projects, the cost of this edifice is rising all the time, and now stands at £159 million.
Guess who, readers? Crikey! Oo-er, chaps!
Now, a pedestrian bridge across the Thames could be had for a fraction of that amount, so why stump up so much, especially when there is another bridge no more than 300 metres away (the Garden Bridge is intended to span the river from a point east of the National Theatre, with its northern access at Temple underground station)? Ah well. We are talking National Treasure and style guru here.
The Garden Bridge is the brainchild of actor turned campaigner Joanna Lumley, with the actual design from Thomas Heatherwick, which latter name should have those concerned about spraying money up the wall going to a state of high alert in very short order indeed. Heatherwick is the name behind the New Bus For London, that overweight irrelevance which is definitely not a Routemaster.
How much less would a conventional bridge cost? Well, the Millennium Bridge further down river cost, even with the well-publicised remedial work, £23.2 million, although those prices would be significantly higher nowadays. In any case, there were significant challenges that had to be met, height restriction being perhaps the greatest. A straightforward footbridge could probably be bought for £30 million.
So what is the Garden Bridge for? Well, not for London’s long-suffering cyclists, who would be banned from riding across it. Bozza doesn’t seem too sure, except to suggest it might be “a wonderful environment for a crafty cigarette or a romantic assignation”. It is being sold as some kind of visitor attraction, so will there be a toll? Otherwise, who will pay for its construction and upkeep?
Simples. Government – that means us, whether in London or elsewhere – will pay £30 million. “Private Donors” will advance another £30 million. And Bozza has now instructed Transport for London (TfL) to stump up another £30 million, as Mayor Watch noted yesterday. The source of the remaining £69 million is not yet known, but if construction starts, someone will have to foot the bill.
Meanwhile, there is a desperate need for river crossings down river of Tower Bridge: one or two links for pedestrians and cyclists would be much appreciated, but what is delivered instead? A cable car that hardly anyone wants to use, and now a Garden Bridge is to be built in a location where there is already plenty of provision, with funding just committed “at risk” if it doesn’t get built.
Somebody, as they say in London, is having a laugh. And it looks like it’s Boris.