Tuesday22 August 2017

Marine engineer warns of 'reckless risk' over Garden Bridge construction

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‘Unprecedented’ volume of river traffic poses risk of another Marchioness tragedy, says expert

A marine engineering specialist has warned that building the Garden Bridge at the same time as the so-called super sewer would be an “unnecessary and reckless risk”.

He said the unprecedented volume of river traffic would increase the chances of a disaster like the Marchioness tragedy in which 51 people drowned when a pleasure boat was hit by a dredger and sank.

Tim Beckett, founder of global marine civil engineering consultancy Beckett Rankine, said the schedules of both projects had shifted, resulting in a “clear and apparent clash” at Blackfriars, the stretch of the Thames which already has the greatest number of collisions.

The Garden Bridge Trust disputes this.

The construction of the super sewer (the Thames Tideway Tunnel or TTT) will see a tripling of freight. The river is experiencing a boom in leisure craft and the construction period will also coincide with boats carrying waste from construction works on the Northern line extension and Fulham Football Club, he said.

In a letter to the government’s Marine Maritime Organisation, Beckett wrote: “During this unprecedented level of river traffic Blackfriars No.2 arch will be closed for the TTT works further increasing navigational risk in Kings Reach.

“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, such as happened 27 years ago with the Marchioness and Bowbelle, is simply too great.”

The MMO has since granted a licence to the Garden Bridge Trust to build in the Thames with a long list of mitigation measures such as river closures and contraflows which Beckett described as “onerous” and which would affect other river users.

“There’s a question mark over the practicality of these mitigation measures,” he told BD.

“The most effective risk mitigation measure available is to delay the Garden Bridge until the peak of the TTT traffic has passed [in 2018]. That would be sensible and prudent.

“The TT has started and the Garden Bridge hasn’t. The TT is essential infrastructure for London and I don’t think many people think the Garden Bridge is essential infrastructure for London.”

Modern boats like the Thames Clippers are built to resist sinking but older boats still ply the Thames.

“If one of these were rammed by a freight vessel like the Marchioness they would sink extremely quickly,” said Beckett.

The Garden Bridge still requires a licence from the Port of London Authority, but that does not involve a public consultation and the terms of any licence will not be publicly available as the PLA does not count as a public body.

A spokesperson for the Garden Bridge Trust said: “We have been in extensive dialogue with the TTT to ensure that our respective works are fully integrated with no construction clashes.”



Readers' comments (7)

  • Scrap this indulgent folly! It is a Boris vanity project & will not benefit the good folk of this nation!! It will merely siphon-off much needed finances, better channelled into council housing, education, health, jobs & transport.

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  • Much as I concur with the comment of Z Sullivan regarding the Garden Bridge, I cannot see any credible basis for Mr Beckett's concerns. The Port of London Authority are more than capable of managing the increase in river traffic.

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  • Michael Spicer

    @ZSullivan..Hear Hear that man!

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  • I happen to agree with both of you however what if we were to see a repeat of what happened earlier this year up north in heavy storm conditions. Where hole bridges were wiped out and pretty much cut the people at the other end of them completely off. It's unlikely I know but what if it did are there enough bridges to cover an event like this. They must have also completed a risk assessment. Just something else to think about.

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  • BD - please note that the image you are using is out of date. The proposed garden bridge is not symmetrical - the Westminster side river pier is very close to the bank and the Lambeth side is far away from the bank. This is because the river channel for shipping is not centrally located. This means that the original concept images (which you are using) are a bit misleading - the bridge if built will be lopsided.

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  • Clichy

    Interesting point Chris Medland.
    Does BD have access to up to date CGIs from Heatherwick or like much of this project - is it all smoke and mirrors. Presumably the planners have accurate CGIs of the current design which must be in the public domain.
    BD should publish these.
    I am appalled that such a flimsy premise as the Garden Bridge has been allowed with so little transparency.
    Kahn should really look into this abuse of the planning process and the considerable abuse of public funding pre construction.
    It is for Kahn to be transparent about this folly or he has failed at his first hurdle as Mayor.

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  • Totally agree with Z Sullivan - there are 100,000 children in B&B in London - scrap it!
    Peter Halpin RIBA

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