UK Politics

Ding-dong, the (Garden) Bridge is dead

Let London mourn the near-inevitable death of Boris Johnson's last surviving vanity project

BY Jack May | JackO_May   /  28 April 2017

The death knell has tolled for London’s Garden Bridge.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has revoked the mayoral guarantee, stripping the project of the taxpayer funding it needed to survive. Given that private cash for the flora and fauna addition to London’s bridge collection – from Temple to the South Bank – has dried up, the slide beyond the veil seems all but inevitable.

Endorsed by out-of-touch celebrities more enamoured by the prospect of “niceness” than the utility of function, the Garden Bridge felt like an imposition; a superyacht parked in the people’s republic of Camden Lock, or a boutique French brasserie pillaging the bustle of Brick Lane.

One some ethereal spiritual level, the Garden Bridge was never our London. An unseemly cosmetic beautification of a relentlessly rough-and-tumble city, it didn’t make sense.

But it was fine. It was alright. It was tolerable.

And then the financial seismometer started ricocheting around. Suddenly we, the people, were expected to stump up ever-increasing sums (up to £70 million at the last count), with the promise of a fattening bill to follow as maintenance costs dribbled incessantly into the future.

In a climate flush with taxpayer cash, perhaps this would have been a worthwhile investment. Like New York’s High Line, the Garden Bridge could have enticed that cool eco-hipster spirit to a part of London saturated with stuffy barristers and unimaginative tourists. That is, of course, if you choose to ignore the fact that it could have been closed almost on a whim at the behest of hedge funds and private interests as an exuberantly civic venue for pointedly exclusive functions.

But such nonsense cannot be ignored, and ours is not a time in which hundreds of millions of public pounds flutter past for the chance procurement of any old toff with a blueprint.

As soon as Crossrail opens, it is expected to run near full capacity. Crossrail 2 beckons, and vital new rolling stock on the clapped-out Bakerloo, Central, and Piccadilly lines is unlikely to prove cheap. And that’s only to cast an eye over the headline TfL projects on which wasted Garden Bridge cash could have been spent. Think about the day-to-day hum-drum of signalling upgrades and track maintenance. Spending £200 million – by the estimations of Margaret Hodge’s report – seems even more ridiculous.

Widen the scope to encompass housing crisis bringing the capital to the brink, and council budgets through the floor, and the only sensible way to mourn the near-inevitable death of Boris Johnson’s last surviving vanity project is with an adaption of that beloved family anthem: Ding-Dong, The Bridge is Dead.