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TfL paid firms almost £10 million for canned Rotherhithe crossing


Architects, engineers and consultants bagged almost £10 million to develop the Rotherhithe crossing plans before Transport for London (TfL) shelved the scheme, it can be revealed

Information obtained by the AJ’s sister publication New Civil Engineer via a Freedom of Information request reveals that Atkins received the largest sum for the canned Thames river crossing.

The design giant – which employed bridge specialist Knight Architects as a subcontractor on the project – pocketed just under £5.5 million for providing advice on transport planning, as well as offering advice and assessment on engineering and architectural matters.

An electric ferry service tabled by Thames Clippers in conjunction with marine engineer Beckett Rankine is now being explored as a potential alternative (see below).

As revealed by New Civil Engineer last month, Atkins also carried out a value engineering exercise which suggested design changes could have shaved as much as £135 million off the final cost of the project.

TfL canned its plans for the River Thames crossing between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf in June after the cost estimate rose to as much as £600 million. If it had gone ahead it would have been the world’s longest and tallest vertical lift bridge.

Design and engineering company Arcadis was paid just under £1.4 million for initial technical scoping for the bridge, while Costain received more than £900,000 for providing construction advice.

Mott McDonald also received £590,000 for providing environmental consultation, while the Institution of Civil Engineers was awarded £10,000 facilitating an independent review of the bridge options.

Full payment breakdown

CompanyDescription of ScopeCost
Arcadis Initial technical scoping – Exploring the feasibility and requirements for navigable bridge options as well as work to review ferry and tunnel options. £1,393,893
Systra Modelling – Walking and cycling model audits for ferry, tunnel and bridge options £ 83,489
AECOM Business Case – Note on the economic impacts of ‘permanent’ infrastructure (ie bridge or tunnel) versus ‘non-permanent’ infrastructure (ie a ferry). £4,911
Volterra Business Case – Investigation into potential wider economic impacts that could be brought about by a new or enhanced river crossing in this location £36,100
K&L Gates Legal Services – Commercial law £108,366
Birchman Dyson Bell Legal Services – Planning and property law £246,554
Queens Counsel Legal Legal Services – QC advice on legal matters £14,850
Atkins Transport Planning – Advice assessment in relation to the transport impacts of the scheme and different options, including specialist input to design work and potential interventions to the wider walking and cycling network £289,251
Mott MacDonald Environmental Consultant – Advice and assessment in relation to the environmental impacts of the scheme and different options, including specialist input to design of environmental mitigations and enhancements. £590,451
Quod Town Planning – Advice and assessment in relation to town planning impacts of the scheme and different options, including specialist input to design work in terms of accessibility and open space. £309,728
Atkins Engineering and architecture – Advice and assessment on engineering and architectural matters, leading development of the concept design [Knight Architects - acted as bridge design speciialist subcontractor to Atkins] £5,119,226
Fugro Ground Investigations £226,288
Marico Marine - Advice and assessment in relation to marine and navigational impacts of the scheme including specialist input to design work. £243,268
Costain Construction - Advice in relation to csonstructability, construction impacts and construction methodology including assessment of different options. £923,734
Institution of Civil Engineers Facilitating an independent review and assessment of bridge options £10,000
Urban Design London Facilitating a Design Review Panel to undertake Independent Design Reviews of the scheme at various stages. £32,998
Total   £9,633,107

Meanwhile a team including Anthony Carlile Architects has presented an alternative proposal to London transport chiefs for electric ferries to carry cyclists and pedestrians across the same stretch of the River Thames.

The £30 million plans include extending an existing pontoon at Westferry Circus on the north bank and building a new floating platform on the south bank with a link to Nelson Dock.

The proposed ferry crossing would see self-charging electric ferries ploughing across the narrow stretch of water 24 hours a day, using an auto-mooring system to ensure a fast turnaround.

Other contributors to the proposals include ferry operator Thames Clippers, infrastructure specialist Beckett Rankine Marine Engineers and Brisbane navel architects Aus Yachts.

The flights of a ramp from Nelson Dock to Rotherhithe Street have been designed as a series of three objects floating in the dock. Each segment has a secondary function with either benches, drinking fountains or glass display cases and models telling the storey of the listed dock.

Transport for London has been contacted for comment about the ferry proposals.

Before either plan was considered Southwark-based ReForm Architects and engineer Elliott Wood drew up their own concept plans for a bascule-style bridge in roughly the same spot as the ditched crossing. However TfL opted instead to pursue the Knight/Atkins scheme.

Anthony Carlile and team's proposals for ferries between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf

Anthony Carlile and team’s proposals for ferries between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf

Anthony Carlile and team’s proposals for ferries between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf


Readers' comments (8)

  • Bring back the Thames Watermen to create employment and a tourist attraction. Gondoliers of London! A competition amongst fashion students to create the uniform, and one for naval architects to create the zero carbon vessels. A big bank can sponsor them like the Boris Bikes. Forwards to the past!

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  • I wonder how these payments from the public purse rated in terms of competitive tendering to ensure best value?
    TfL's performance in procuring work on Boris's pet Garden Bridge suggest the need for rigorous application of 'anti cronyism' checks within the TfL behemoth.

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  • £52m of public transport money spent on the Garden Bridge & Rotherhithe bridges without any public transport benefit gained. £52m is enough to have built the Cremorne (Diamond Jubilee Bridge) back in 2012 twice over. Assuming a 12 month construction period, by now, as forecast by TfL's own modelling in their report to the Mayor, over 7 million journeys would have been taken off the roads around Battersea and Fulham bringing huge air quality, health, time saving and environmental benefits to London as a whole. The funding gap now stands at £14m which we are working with Wandsworth Council to fill. Watching the other projects come and go and all that money being spent has been an education. There must be a better way of securing value for money in the prioritisation, procurement method and delivery of Bridges and wider infrastructure. Need and cost are mathematically provable, the cost:benefit ratio is a provable and measurable result that can be used in comparisons. Politicians from both main parties are guilty to a certain extent of playing to their crowds as you would expect, but this leads to dead ends, waste and the delivery of (in the past decade) nothing. There must be a way, lead by engineers and modelling, that takes the politics out of these decisions and enables infrastructure money to be spent in the best way to serve the end purpose - to reduce climate change, improve air quality, increase housing density and economic activity, improve health and quality of life.

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  • Procurement bores have produced a non-building culture which ensures money is wasted. The real scandal about the Garden Bridge was that, having supported it pre-election, Mayor Khan took a political decision to scrap it. The scandal at Rotherhithe is that architects and engineers who conceived the project were then sidelined. In both cases, what a waste.

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  • Industry Professional

    I am unclear on the underlying theme of this article. Is it that a lot has been spent on what was a badly conceived idea before a halt was called or that a lot of firms have made "a killing" from the public purse? Surely you are not suggesting that legitimate work does not deserve some recompense?

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  • Whenever taxpayers money is being spent you can guarantee there will be a large amount of waste

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  • Societies are built upon trust. They need to rely on those with power and influence using that power and exerting that influence with integrity and transparency. Any abuse of power, any improper influence, any action led by self-interest rather than the public interest, destroys that trust. Where this becomes the norm, democracy, the economy and the rule of law all suffer, and ultimately the fabric of society is at risk.

    'The Bribery Act 2010: post-legislative scrutiny'. 2019. House of Lords.

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  • Daniel Lacey

    I think we're supposed to slag off the big companies who have charged fees for their work. Ahem, "how dare they".

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