The Garden Bridge is a waste of public money, says mayoral candidate Christian Wolmar

It’s not a transport project, and makes no coherent sense, Wolmar says

The £175m construction of the controversial Garden Bridge is to be part funded with public money from the government and from Transport for London.

Boris Johnson and George Osborne pledged £30m each towards the construction costs.

This has angered people who believe that the bridge, which was conceived by Joanna Lumley and backed by Johnson as Mayor of London, will become little more than a privately managed tourist attraction.

A judicial review into the bridge was granted last month, and escalating public clamour is now threatening to bring the scheme down.

Ahead of an appearance at a public meeting to debate the bridge, Labour mayoral candidate Christian Wolmar spoke to about why he opposes the plans.

“It’s not a transport project, so £30m of TfL money and £30m of transport money is being spent on something that really is a tourist attraction that has commercial possibility,” Wolmar said.

“It doesn’t seem to be something we should be supporting as a transport scheme when it has no such function. It doesn’t make any coherent sense.

“It’s going to be closed at night, closed for various corporate events, cyclists will not be allowed to use it, and it’s not going to be a particularly easy route to walk quickly through, so people won’t bother to do that. It seems to serve no transport purpose whatsoever.

“What I’d like to see that money spent on is perhaps 30,000 streets across London being allocated £1000 each to put up their own trees or planters and flower beds or bike locking facilities. Think how imaginative that could be – it would be rather greener than this project.”

“Why is public money going into this?”

“The other point is that it’s going to be an obstacle to a historic view,” Wolmar adds. “Canaletto painted this stretch of river. You’re not supposed to have trees growing in the middle of the Thames! Views which have been painted for years are going to have trees and bushes and plants right in the way.

“None of it makes sense either from a public garden point of view, nor from a transport point of view, and that is what is part-funding it. Why is public money going into this? What is the justification for that?”

Can it be stopped?

Wolmar believes it’s not too late to stop the scheme from going ahead.

The Garden Bridge Trust, the body in charge of the scheme, wants construction to begin by the end of the year, otherwise it will clash with the building of the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

When asked if he thinks it can be stopped, he said: “Oh yes. First of all there’s a judicial review, secondly, I think it will be up to the next mayor to possibly stop it, and I also think public opinion might stop it. There might be a lot of people who like Joanna Lumley, but there are also a lot of people who realise that it would mean messing around with an iconic part of London.”

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Readers' comments (5)

  • Anonymous

    Whilst the Garden Bridge will no doubt become a major tourist attraction I do not understand why our taxes are being used to both assist with the construction works and ongoing maintainence costs.

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  • I don't even see it becoming a tourist attraction. There are already many beautiful parks and gardens in London which tourists and residents can enjoy. The fact that the garden happens to be on a bridge doesn't make it any more interesting. Well said Christian Wolmar and thank you for highlighting the waste of public money and destruction of historic views. Let's build bridges where we need them.

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  • I'm supporting Christian Wolmar for the London Mayoral candidacy, but I have to disagree slightly here with Christian. I suspect its too far advanced to entirely cancel the project, but do agree that as a transport project/river crossing it does not justify the funding from the sources mentioned. However, turning it into a positive and getting support rallied round for what i think (unlike John) is destined to become a successful tourist attraction and possibly world first (which London should always aim to be!) lets get the cycling fraternity on board and ensure that a direct cycle path/route is added with cycle parking halfway for those that wish to 'chill' on their smelly and hazardous journey home from work. This would greatly enhance its rationale as a transport option, and be one of the few direct routes for bikes not open to cars (unless you count the ludicrous 'BECCSEE' -Boris Emirates Cable Car is Slow,Empty & Expensive) It surely would not add enormously to what is already a huge cost, and could even be separated from the gardens so that it may run all hours. This would justify the expense and put us one up on Amsterdam, Paris and the like in terms of cycle friendliness-an opportunity not to be missed. As for corporate events and closures to the public- a definite NO, like London parks brought to us by the Victorians, this should be an income leveller-for ALL people, not just wealthy ticket holders!!!

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  • Thanks Derek, but I do not believe that is the type of bridge they want - the business model seems to be about hosting corporate events and deterring people from using it as a transport mode

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  • Anonymous

    If it really is such a great project then let the very wealthy Bridge Houses Estate fund pay for the construction and upkeep.

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