A leading marine engineer has warned that the construction process of the Garden Bridge risks causing a serious disaster similar to the sinking of the Marchioness in 1989. The pleasure boat hit with another craft on the river and 51 people drowned, and Tim Beckett advised that the risk is “simply too great” for the most hazardous stretch of the Thames.
The Architects Journal (again!) exclusively revealed that Beckett recommended that the Garden Bridge should not be built while the Thames Tideway Tunnel, a massive super sewer being built under the river because the huge increase in river traffic will result in a high chance of collision.
The sewer will cause huge amounts of waste spoil to be taken downstream by barges and total river traffic is expected to double. Because the Garden Bridge Trust have been hopelessly unable to sign off planning conditions, raise finance, solve engineering problems, or win over the public resulting in huge delays to their programme. The current or imminent investigations by the mayor, the Charity Commission and the National Audit Office as well as the Thames Central Open Spaces’ Judicial Review means they aren’t going to start their development any time soon either.
Beckett stated a 2014 risk assessment found that the exact position where the bridge is to be constructed had experienced ‘significantly more vessel collisions and contacts than any other part of the river’, frequently with passenger craft.
He continues, “To then add the two Garden Bridge cofferdams on top of all these other increased risks would, I believe, be an unnecessary and reckless risk. The likelihood of a major collision between a passenger vessel and a large freight vessel is simply too great.”
THE GARDEN BRIDGE TRUST’S LOOSE UNDERSTANDING OF TIME
The GBT have previously said (£) that their development had to be completed before the TTT began or it would be impossible to build and Boris Johnson stated a number of times that it had to be complete before the tunnel.
As late as last December Johnson, then desperate to hide further investigations into his pet project, said “I mean basically the pressure on the timetable is caused by the Thames Tideway Tunnel, we’ve got to begin the work next year, quite early next year… and it’s our intention that we should crack on.”
But in their original plan, which was designed to rush ahead with the development without proper scrutiny and before the public really knew what was happening, and much quicker than any other project of a comparable size, should have started construction last winter (note the year mistake on their diagram below, a great attention to detail). If is to ever start, which is looking increasingly unlikely, the overall construction cost is almost certain to be far more than the £175m the GBT claim (and are still £30m short of).
THE GARDEN BRIDGE TRUST FORGETTING THEY ARE BUILDING A BRIDGE
It isn’t the first time that the GBT have had problems with the requirements of river traffic. Incredibly they seem to have gone through the planning process without having considered the Port of London Authority’s clearance requirements. As architect Ian Ritchie pointed out in his design report on the bridge, it appears that since planning was granted the GBT have moved the northern ‘leg’ in order to fulfill navigational clearance.
That the bridge was so totally backwards engineered from Heatherwick’s renders is shocking, and as Ritchie says, “I would have thought that people designing a bridge would begin with the navigation channel constraint, rather than dealing with it as an afterthought.”
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