The Garden Bridge, it was said, “would only go ahead in conjunction with third party funding, and ongoing costs would be for a third party rather than public sector.”
Those are words taken from the page of Transport for London’s Strategic Business Case for the Garden Bridge. They are, as far as we’re aware, the words upon which the whole project was agreed. When they were written, they were at best optimistic – just two years later, they’re shown to be seriously misleading.
Since the promise that not a penny of taxpayers’ money would be used on the Bridge, there have been commitments of £30 million from the Treasury and a further £30 million from the Transport for London Budget. The Mayor has also signed up TfL as the “guarantor” of the scheme for planning purposes, meaning that – as it stands – the taxpayer is also on the hook for ongoing maintenance costs of between £2 and £3 million a year. Though the Mayor claims that this will be achieved via private funding, the great and the good that support this Bridge enjoyed a lavish fundraising dinner at Harrod’s last week which raised a grand total of £275,000 which does rather suggest that hitting the £2 million-plus target every year in perpetuity will be a challenge.
The terrible thing is that there are plenty of parts of London that could do with infrastructure help, for reasons laid out well by Lord Adonis here
LINK. So diverting £30 million of London’s transport budget to a bridge that barely functions as a bridge (deep breath – you can’t cycle on it, it’ll be closed at night, it’ll be closed full stop for 12 days a year, and it’s designed to encourage people to dawdle) smacks of absurdity of the top order.
The Garden Bridge is a costly tourist attraction dressed up as tourist infrastructure. It’s an inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money – and worse, it was promised not to be. One must ask the question: have we been sold down the river?
© Andy Silvester, June 2015
Andy Silvester is Campaign Director at The Taxpayers’ Alliance.