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Wobbly bridge: Fitzpatrick moves on

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Arup has asked building engineering chairman Tony Fitzpatrick to relinquish his role and take a post in America instead because of his performance as chief engineer on the ill-fated Millennium Bridge project, the AJ has learnt.

Fitzpatrick will remain with Arup but instead head the firm's smaller-scale US network, which is due to be launched as Arup Americas Division on April 1.

The new US operation brings together four farflung offices in Boston, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, employing 150 staff across a string of specialist projects including laboratories on the Los Angeles coast.

But in shifting to the US headquarters in New York, Fitzpatrick relinquishes the command of a 600-strong workforce based in London, Europe and Africa. He will be replaced by Cecil Balmond, former building engineering deputy chairman and more recently operations board principal director.

Fitzpatrick outlined his decision to quit in an internal staff memo which has been leaked to the AJ.

'There are things I wish I could have done better, and others which I wish I had done differently, ' he wrote. 'I can only say that I have always striven to do my best, attempting to strike that elusive best balance between the complex and conflicting paradigms that govern our lives.

'I shall be commuting to the USA over the next few months and I will relocate later this year. So there will be time to see and speak as necessary with the twin lifeblood streams of the firm: our people and our clients.'

Intense media criticism of the swaying £18 million Millennium Bridge, which in addition to Fitzpatrick was spearheaded by architect Lord Foster and sculptor Sir Anthony Caro, has caused enormous embarrassment for Arup.

The project is to cost an extra £5 million to correct and will not reopen until October this year - which will be 16 months after its original completion date.

Commenting on Fitzpatrick's relocation to the US, an Arup insider said: 'Carlton Television's recent documentary showed Fitzpatrick at press conferences claiming the bridge would not sway like the Pont de Solferino in Paris. He suggested that if French engineers had come to Ove Arup the Paris bridge might not have wobbled. In hindsight this makes Ove Arup look foolish.

It's interesting that two weeks after the documentary was broadcast Fitzpatrick was no longer building engineering chairman.'

The engineers of the Millennium Bridge will be holding a talk on the problems and how they sought to overcome them at the Institute of Civil Engineers at One Great Street in Westminster on April 26. Free tickets to the joint event with the Institution of Structural Engineers are available by ringing Madeline Baldon on 020 7235 4535 (ext 226).

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