It is ‘mystifying’ that plans for a Garden Bridge across the Thames have got so far with such a poor transport case, a Green Party member of the London Assembly has told Transport Network.
On Thursday, Dame Margaret Hodge, former chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said there ‘remain unanswered around issues like procurement’ after being appointed by London mayor Sadiq Khan to lead a review into the £185m project.
A model of the Diamond Jubilee Bridge credit: Peter Clarkson
Caroline Russell AM said the review ‘needs to look at what the case is because it’s a very weak case’.
Ms Russell told Transport Network the Garden Bridge would ‘completely disrupt the river walk, taking up precious green space with its landing points,’ and cause ‘huge pedestrian congestion’.
She said: ‘It’s mystifying that the Garden Bridge, which has so many inherent problems, has got as far as it has. I don’t believe it would work for London in transport terms.’
Ms Russell added that the proposed bridge ‘feels like it’s trying to wrap up too many things, incredibly expensively’, but would be in a location already full of tourist attractions and would not work in horticultural terms either.
‘It’s hard to see what the need is for a garden in the middle of the Thames, clogging up the shipping lanes with giant flowerpots,’ the Green Party politician said.
Stressing that she supported investment in cross-river bridges ‘when they have a really strong transport case’, Ms Russell said: ‘Bridges that get more people travelling around on foot and by bike help solve congestion and air quality issues.’
Ms Russell contrasted the Garden Bridge with proposals for a Diamond Jubilee Bridge – a pedestrian and cycle crossing between Battersea and Fulham – which has planning permission from councils on either side and consent from the mayor and is part of Transport for London’s (TfL) ‘Connecting the Capital’ plans for new river crossings.
The Diamond Jubilee Bridge is ‘absolutely good to go’ and ‘fulfils a pure transport function’, she said.
Earlier this month, the London Assembly passed a motion proposed by Ms Russell, calling on Mr Khan to appoint TfL as delivery agent for the ‘community-led initiative’ and ‘make representations to the government for financial support or underwriting to help the scheme progress, providing the economic case is confirmed’.
A spokesperson for Wandsworth Council told Transport Network that it is helping TfL assess the bridge’s business case, and exploring opportunities to secure funding.