Transport for London (TfL) head of corporate affairs has defended the body’s record on the Garden Bridge project, despite £53M being spent on the project before it was eventually abandoned in 2017 before construction ever got underway.
Andy Brown told a London Assembly group investigating the failed project that while working on the Garden Bridge project he was “satisfied” with the way TfL and the Garden Bridge Trust charity conducted their work.
Brown was addressing the Assembly after a report by the Charity Commission stated that the loss of £53M on the unbuilt bridge before it was scrapped risks undermining public trust in charities and criticised the Garden Bridge Trust’s approach to transparency and accountability.
The Garden Bridge Trust - ultimately responsible for delivery of the project - failed to appear at the Assembly, refusing to take part in the investigation.
When asked about if he had ever been concerned by the trust’s confidence in delivering the project, Brown said: “Not anymore than I would any project team that was delivering a project within TfL. I think they were very aware of the risks that they had ahead of them and the tasks that they needed to complete.”
He added that TfL had been “satisfied that they had the resource and expertise in place” to begin construction in June or July of 2016.
“Our role in it was to make sure we were satisfied firstly that they were using any funding that we had given them appropriately and in accordance with the conditions in our funding agreement, and secondly that if they were asking for additional money that they had met the conditions of payment for that money before any money was paid,” he added.
“The Garden Bridge Trust was solely responsible for the delivery of the project.”
Garden Bridge Trust chair Mervyn Davies last week refused to attend the meeting at City Hall, arguing the group was not “representative of the full membership” of the Assembly and that its leading members had been “critical” of the project.
The taxpayer funded £43M of the unfinished project’s total spend – £24M put up by TfL with an additional £19M from the Department for Transport (DfT) – while private investors coughed up £10.5M.
The final cost was uncovered after TfL also handed over a final payment of £5.5M to the charity behind the project to cover future liabilities and contingencies associated with the formal wind-up of the organisation.
In addition, last year it was revealed that £14.3M was spent on pre-construction costs for the project during 2017 even though planning permission had never been granted.
Like what you’ve read? To receive New Civil Engineer’s daily and weekly newsletters click here.