Sadiq Khan freezes enabling scheme at Temple Tube station over fears of further taxpayer exposure
London’s new mayor has effectively suspended work on the Garden Bridge because of concerns that an enabling project at Temple Tube station will lead to more public money being spent on the £175 million project.
Transport for London’s (TfL) finance and policy committee had on Friday (8 July) been due to rubber-stamp £3 million of London Underground spending on strengthening the station’s structure to withstand the weight of the Thomas Heatherwick-designed bridge on its roof.
But Sadiq Khan has now ordered the work – by engineer Flint & Neil, and approved by his predecessor Boris Johnson two months before May’s mayoral election – to be halted because of his commitment not to spend any more taxpayers’ money on the bridge.
A spokesperson for the mayor told the AJ: ‘The previous mayor first approved plans for enabling work to prepare Temple Tube station for the arrival of the Garden Bridge two years ago in the summer of 2014, but final authorisation was only provided in March this year, two months before the mayoral election.
‘This enabling work has since been suspended, and that will be reported to the Finance and Policy Committee today. Sadiq Khan has been clear that no new public funds should be committed to the Garden Bridge, and he has pledged to make the project more open and transparent – standards that were not always met under the previous administration.’
Speaking at the State of London debate last week, Khan confirmed he was still investigating the heavily criticised procurement of the Garden Bridge. ‘If it’s the case that the project becomes unfeasible, if it requires more…taxpayers’ money then I’m not prepared to provide more taxpayers’ money for it,’ he said.
The Lib Dem leader in the London Assembly, Caroline Pidgeon, wrote to the chairman of the TfL committee, John Armitt, earlier this week, raising concerns about the £3 million spend on Temple station (see letter attached). She said the mayor should also examine Johnson’s commitment to underwrite the bridge’s annual maintenance cost, estimated at £3.5 million.
‘The fact that this work to Temple station has been suspended at the 11th hour suggests that for too long TfL has not been in full control of public money it has been allocating to the Garden Bridge,’ Pidgeon said.
‘If the mayor is really serious about ensuring that no further public funds are allocated to the Garden Bridge, his next step must be to immediately rip up the maintenance guarantee decisions that Boris Johnson foolishly signed up to.
‘The lack of transparency over almost every aspect of the Garden Bridge cannot continue.’
The Garden Bridge Trust website claims that bridge construction will start this summer, with the project opening to the public in 2018.
However, even prior to the mayor’s announcement that he was halting the scheme, the strengthening of Temple Tube station had not been due to complete until December 2018, according to TfL documents seen by the AJ.
A spokeswoman for the Garden Bridge Trust claimed work on this and on the bridge would be ‘concurrent’, adding that the Garden Bridge project as a whole was progressing at ‘full steam’.
The Trust also insists that the £3millon needed for the work at Temple will be repaid under a costs agreement with London Underground and will be funded from the Trust’s ‘overall project costs’.
She said: ‘London Underground has completed initial work at Temple. Its work is now paused while the trust completes all required planning and land matters ahead of starting full construction.
‘This includes concluding land deals with Coin Street Community Builders and on the Northbank with Westminster City Council. It is hoped these will be concluded by the end of July.
‘The trust is also focusing on discharging the outstanding planning conditions in Lambeth and Westminster, discharging obligations within Section 106 agreements and finalising the sequencing of river works.
‘Once all planning and property matters have been resolved, the next phase of the London Underground work will commence. All works will be paid for by the trust. It is full steam ahead across the planning priorities and fundraising is also very active.’
Heatherwick Studio declined to comment.