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Garden Bridge II? TfL urged to probe Rotherhithe bridge procurement

re form rotherhithe bridge
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A leading politician has written to Transport for London’s legal boss demanding an investigation into the controversial design selection process for the proposed bridge from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf

Caroline Pidgeon, deputy chair of the London Assembly transport committee, told TfL general counsel Howard Carter she had ‘serious concerns’ over the way the crossing was being progressed.

Southwark-based ReForm Architects, which registered designs for a proposed crossing in this part of east London, revealed earlier this month that it was seeking legal advice over the way TfL had run its contest for architectural services on the Rotherhithe bridge.

The controversy centres on a technical scoping study carried out by design consultancy Arcadis, which is understood to have advised against the bascule-type bridge drawn up by ReForm as part of its initial idea of a crossing at this location.

How can it be right that Arcadis has effectively ruled out one form of bridge, and is then allowed to bid for this piece of work?

TfL subsequently allowed Arcadis to bid for the design support contract, although it is unclear whether the firm took this opportunity. A winner is yet to be chosen.

Pidgeon wrote to Carter: ‘How can it be right that TfL has paid for work by a company Arcadis, where they have effectively ruled out one form of bridge, and then the process allows Arcadis to bid for this piece of work? This does not feel comfortable at all and I am sure in terms of the public’s view, they would think that TfL is not acting properly and allowing all options to be assessed.

‘I would therefore ask that in your role as general counsel at TfL you fully investigate the issues I have raised. I would like you to review and consider whether the options for the design of the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf pedestrian and cycle bridge – whatever its intentions – are in practice being closed down at a premature stage by the process officers have chosen.

‘I also think clarification is needed as to the role that Arcadis will be playing in the future progress on the design of the bridge. I specifically wish to know whether Arcadis will, in any way, be able to financially benefit from any further stages relating to progressing the design and building of the bridge.’

After assessing various types of bridge, including a bascule, Arcadis’s feasibility study concluded that either a lift or swing bridge were ‘most appropriate at this stage’.

The document was circulated to inform bids for the engineering and architectural services consultant role on the crossing, an opportunity seemingly put to all members of the multidisciplinary services lot of TfL’s professional services framework – which includes Arcadis – and their supply chain.

Mayor Sadiq Khan, who chairs TfL, last year pulled the plug on the ill-fated Garden Bridge, which had faced years’ of criticism over its procurement of designer Heatherwick Studio and engineering designer Arup.

I find it extraordinary that there is a scheme supported by local people, yet the agency charged with delivering it is making it difficult

ReForm managing director Nik Randall said earlier this month: ‘With the Garden Bridge, people were saying there was a possibility of a biased process for one design; this feels like there’s a possibility of a biased process against one design.

‘I find it extraordinary that there is a scheme supported by local people, yet the agency charged with delivering it is making it difficult.’

A TfL spokesperson said earlier in February: ’Any feasibility work carried out doesn’t advantage anyone in bidding for the next stage of design work because the appointment will be based on the capabilities of the team, rather than the evaluation of a design.

’We shared Arcadis’s initial report with all bidders simply in the interests of transparency. Our commercial team also provided ReForm with the details of the consultants on our framework as part of our current procurement for a multidisciplinary team, so they could explore options to be part of a bidding team. It is for ReForm to pursue this, rather than for us to require such an arrangement.

’Within Arcadis’s bridge options report, it clearly states that future design stages need not be restricted exclusively to its conclusions … accordingly, the ReForm option of a bascule bridge has neither been included or precluded as part of this process.’

ReForm drew up its speculative bridge design (pictured) working with engineers Elliott Wood and Buro Happold.

TfL and Arcadis have been contacted for comment on Pidgeon’s letter.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • No explanation of why Arcadis advised against a bascule design?
    This could be taken as questioning the competence of the designers in the ReForm Architects team - and Buro Happold, in particular, surely has a long and distinguished record of very high quality engineering design.

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