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Shrimps muddy the finances of Foster's river crossing

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Shrimps and worms living in the banks of the River Thames have helped push the Foster and Partners Millennium Bridge £2.3 million over budget, it was revealed this week. Builders had to spend £1 million on protecting the mud dwellers' fragile habitat during construction after the Environment Agency stepped in before construction started last year.

Acting on the advice of the environmental watchdog, a stone carpet was laid on the foreshore on either side of the river to protect the creatures during construction of the bridge.

The extra cost means that the first new bridge across the Thames for more than a century will now cost £18.2 million. But the shrimps and worms were not the only cause for the increased cost of the bridge. The architects also had to design a special lift for the disabled to connect the bridge to the river shore on the north side of the river. Meanwhile, on the south bank, funds were poured into landscaping efforts to improve the area around the foot of the bridge.

The extra cost has been met by fund raising from private individuals and a £250,000 grant from the Cross River Partnership, according to project director at the Millennium Bridge Trust, Malcolm Redding. The Millennium Commission awarded the bridge a £7.1 million Lottery grant in 1998 when the budget was estimated at £15.9 million.

The bridge will be open to the public from 10 June but was officially inaugurated by the Queen on Tuesday. Redding denied that the bridge was expected to be ready on time for the Queen to walk across it on its opening. The wood, stainless steel and aluminium bridge connects St Paul's Cathedral on the north bank with the new Bankside Tate Modern.

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