Garden Bridge Review: Richard de Cani Transcript (Part 1)

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In October 2016, Dame Margaret Hodge MP was appointed to lead an independent review of the Garden Bridge project. As part of this review, she conducted a number of interviews with key people and organisations. To aid future research and debate, we have committed to transcribing these interviews into a searchable, full-text format.

The completed transcripts can all be found on our Garden Bridge Review page. Please be aware that this is a large project – combined, the interviews comprise around 250,000 words. We thus ask for your patience when waiting for the transcripts to be completed.

You can read the original scan of this interview here. Due to length, our transcript is divided into two parts.


Richard de Cani led on the procurement of the Garden Bridge contracts within TfL’s planning department. After Michèle Dix’ departure for Crossrail 2, he took up post as Managing Director for Planning.

The interview took place on 14 December 2016. Present were Dame Margaret Hodge MP (MH), Richard de Cani (RdC) and Claire Hamilton (CH).

The transcript

MH: There are various things that clearly you appear central to, as I read through all the papers.

RdC: Yes.

MH: And it’s difficult to know how to start. How did it start, did you have an instruction from Boris saying, “I want a Garden Bridge and I want Heatherwick”, I don’t know “to be involved”. Because it is unclear from the papers really.

RdC: So, you’ll appreciate I don’t have the paperwork that you’ve got because I left TfL in April, so I didn’t bring files of Garden Bridge– I didn’t bring anything with me.

MH: We might check some with you.

RdC: So I’ve got bits and pieces that I’ve got from the website, but from my perspective it’s very clear how this started and I think what’s less understood is my role changed about this process. I had a different role at the start than the end because I changed jobs and that hasn’t been clear through some of the reporting of this.

You’ll have had an explanation about the general process of engagement between TfL and the Mayor’s Office, the weekly meetings that the commissioners and the chief officers every week go and see the Mayor and his advisers — this is under Boris — and then would update and come back with a series of actions. So I didn’t attend those; Michele [Dix] attended those, Michele was my boss.

So, one of those meetings in, it was probably early January, just after Christmas 2013, was feedback from Michele that the Mayor had expressed interest on the back of some sort of presentation from Heatherwick and others on a bridge in central London, the Garden Bridge. So the action came back from Michele after the Mayor’s meeting that we had been asked to develop some options for how it’s to be taken forward.

The timing of this was very much second term, start of, and there were a whole series of things that were seen as deliverables in that second term of office. The role that TfL has in the mayoralty is to deliver the Mayor’s manifesto, so we were receiving almost instructions.

I didn’t know about the specific proposal but this is a subject that has got quite a well-trodden background, not necessarily garden bridges, but living bridges. There was lots of other stuff that had gone on in the previous 4 or 5 years, there was a competition at the Royal Academy, so it wasn’t surprising and, in the world of TfL and the mayoralty, bridges, whether they’re in central London or the east of London, are always on the agenda.

So Michele came back and said, “The Mayor’s Office want to progress this, we need to look at some options”, and this was on the back of the cable car. You are probably not a fan of the cable car.

MH: I’ve actually looked at some of the papers.

RdC: TfL had delivered the cable car for the Mayor quickly and in a mayoral term, ahead of the Olympics, and the feedback was, “Is this something like cable car, can it be delivered in the Mayor’s second term of office?” So we were asked to produce a paper, which you’ve probably seen, a briefing paper —

MH: I want to know a bit before that happened, so did you meet Heatherwick?

RdC: No, I haven’t met Heatherwick at all until after the procurement. I’ve met Thomas about three years prior to that in a meeting where he was coming out of the meeting, I was going in —

MH: But he had done a lot of meetings.

RdC: Not with me.

MH: No, but he had with your bosses, so he had done meetings with Isabel and Ed.

RdC: So not my bosses.

MH: But you reported up to them, don’t you?

RdC: Well that is the relationship between the GLA and the Mayoral advisers and TfL.

MH: But you have weekly meetings with Isabel.

RdC: Not me at that time, I used to go when there was an issue for me. Michele did because Michele was the Managing Director, so she was at the weekly Mayor’s meetings, went to the weekly Isabel meetings. I picked up that role later on.

MH: Right, if I’ve got them somewhere, I have actually highlighted them for today, because I assumed that you were in there, those early meetings.

RdC: No. So I’ve seen some of the earlier emails about presentations to whoever in City Hall.

MH: It’s more than presentations, they did a model and Arup have done all sorts of work to put some costings on it, together with —

RdC: I became aware of that work, yes.

MH: Do you remember those off the top of your head? The dates, there were three dates, the three meetings after the election.

RdC: I wasn’t in any of those.

CH: No, it was one in July, one in September and one in December I believe, and I think Peter Hendy was in one of those in December and possibly Michele as well.

MH: There we are, June 2012, first meeting with Joanna Lumley, July with Isabel Dedring and Ed Lister, then a further meeting in September with the Mayor, Joanna Lumley, Thomas Heatherwick, and then there’s another meeting at Heatherwick Studios in November, and then a visit to Air Line has been arranged, and that was you.

RdC: No.

MH: Email, 7 January 2013, Richard to Caroline Murdoch and Michele Dix, “A visit to the Air Line has been arranged for Thomas and Joanna.” That is from you.

RdC: I didn’t go on the visit.

MH: No, but you knew about it.

RdC: I knew about the visit, yes.

MH: “I have also been in contact with Arup to see what technical information is already available and design costings feasibility and expect to receive something over the next few days.”

RdC: And that’s referred to in that.

MH: This was before any tender documents went out to Heatherwick, and it sounds to me from that that you were quite on top of the case.

RdC: No, not at all. I hadn’t met Heatherwick. The briefing I got from Michele came back probably from that December meeting you’re referring to. So I can’t remember whether it was a Mayor’s meeting just with TfL or it was the same meeting that Heatherwick was there as well. There may have been two meetings but I was not there.

Michele came back from that meeting — the briefing was probably before Christmas and we were asked to produce this. In the process of producing that, I spoke to Arup because I was told from Michele that Arup had done some work and I need to find out how much had been done because that would inform our approach. If they’d done lots of work that might have been relevant; if they’d done a little work.

So I spoke to the client relationship manager for Arup and said, “What’s your involvement, how much have you done?” He explained what they’d done and that’s referred to in here.

MH: And what about Heatherwick?

RdC: So I hadn’t met with Heatherwick. The only —

MH: But you had spoken to him? You had seen the model.

RdC: No, I hadn’t seen the model, I’d just had feedback from Michele, so I didn’t go on the visit to the Air Line.

MH: Although you organised it.

RdC: So I was asked to facilitate it because it was seen as a model of delivery and that would have come out of the December meeting that part of the action was to explain to Heatherwick how the cable car was done. So Michele did that with one of the environmental specialists in TfL from memory.

MH: I am getting contradictory views from people, what I find hard to believe is that, I haven’t read the Ed Lister transcript, but my memory of what he said to me, he was quite clear that Boris had met Heatherwick, met Joanna, liked the idea, Heatherwick had gone off and done a whole load of programme of work. You know, that they wanted a Garden Bridge, that’s what they wanted; they wanted it there, because that’s what Joanna had decided. You’re frowning at that but –

RdC: No, I don’t know whether that’s correct to say that’s what she did, but the proposal that came out of the Mayor’s Office that TfL agreed to take forward was a proposal for a bridge in that location in central London.

MH: A garden bridge in that —

RdC: That wasn’t clear actually.

MH: Well why on earth put Heatherwick on it, because if you look at — if you then look at their record, you had a list of contractors —

RdC: A framework, yes.

MH: You had a framework in which you had a number of people who had great experience of building bridges, of which you did put two into it —

RdC: No, they weren’t on the framework; we didn’t have a framework we could use for bridge design —

I was told they were on your framework.

RdC: At the time we didn’t have a framework. So, if you look back at this note, which I contributed to along with many others, we put various options about how this could be taken forward and the remit that we were given from City Hall was to develop options that Heatherwick could participate in, and this is very clear, some of these options are —

MH: Why Heatherwick? Did you not ask, “Why Heatherwick?”

RdC: Because they had an idea —

MH: Which you hadn’t seen.

RdC: I hadn’t seen the idea; I’d had the idea explained to me by Michele and Peter, or by Michele primarily because she sat through the presentation. So, at that point, when we were asked to kick off the procurement, I hadn’t had a detailed presentation from Heatherwick on the Garden Bridge. All I’d had was feedback from Michele.

MH: You hadn’t talked to him on the phone, although you did ring them up to tell them they’d got the contract before.

RdC: Yes, but that’s at the end of the procurement process. You’re talking about what happened in the run-up to the procurement. So, from memory, I had no dialogue with Heatherwick — I don’t know, you might have some record there that I haven’t got that I did, but I was not part of that presentation and that briefing on the Garden Bridge.

MH: You were not part of that presentation. What I find hard to believe, Richard, is that you started the procurement without knowing that the Mayor had got it into his brain that he wanted — I think that’s totally legit for a Mayor to think that.

RdC: No, I’m not saying that at all, and that’s what this note reflects. So what this note was, how can we take this project forward, and the project was a bridge in that location, and the —

MH: The Garden Bridge.

RdC: Well the idea that the Mayor had seen was the Garden Bridge, so we included Heatherwick in these options, along with others. The reason I put others in, because for that value of work, we could have just gone to Heatherwick, we didn’t need a competition.

MH: Why didn’t you go to Heatherwick?

RdC: We put the options in here. My most recent experience at that time was working with Wilkinson Eyre, they did the Cable Car. I went to three designers: one of whom was Heatherwick, because they had an existing idea, which we were told the Mayor liked and wanted to deliver, whether it was that idea or something like that not clear, but something like that. Wilkinson Eyre had done something unusual over the river, so they had experience of building in the river, which I thought was very valuable, and Marks Barfield had done the London Eye, which, for another set of reasons, is quite unique.

So we put those three together to see who put the best proposal forward. And we wanted, at that stage, to make sure we received other ideas alongside Heatherwick’s to see if anyone came up with anything better.

MH: But you didn’t ask for that in the tender document, did you? One of the things I’m having to investigate, was it a rigged contract?

RdC: It wasn’t rigged, no. I think, if you look at the tender, the tender was very short, it was a one-page scope, it was for a —

MH: You didn’t say anywhere, “We want something unique that adds a contribution, it could be” —

RdC: Well it talked about contributing to economic strategy, it was quite a dry tender, it talked about contributions, and what we got —

MH: And what the other two did was respond saying, “This is the process we’d undertake to develop”. What Heatherwick do, because they’ve been on it for a couple of years, was produce — I find it really hard to understand that you weren’t told, “We want Heatherwick to do it”.

RdC: No, we —

MH: I don’t understand why you went out to tender.

RdC: The process we went through was the Mayor had seen the presentation, TfL had seen the presentation through Peter and Michele, there was an action from that meeting to options for taking that forward. This paper was produced —

MH: Options for taking what forward?

RdC: Taking forward a bridge like the Garden Bridge in that location.

MH: And you had no idea, you’re telling me, you wanted Heatherwick?

RdC: No, if you look at this, all of these options incorporate Heatherwick, some of them incorporate — some of them talk about Heatherwick doing it on their own.

MH: I know. That’s why I can’t understand why you didn’t just appoint them.

RdC: So this wasn’t an option where Heatherwick weren’t included in a tender; that was very clear. We needed to include their idea alongside others. So when you look at the options that were put back to City Hall —

MH: You were asking others for ideas? Honestly, Richard, you didn’t ask them. If you’d asked them for — I looked at the tender document, I’ve looked at the documents they put in, they — either you were very unclear in what you asked for in your original tender or you had made up your mind. They put in, “This is the process in which we would move to a design of a bridge”.

RdC: What Wilkinson Eyre did is showed us all the bridges they’d built somewhere else. What Marks Barfield did is showed us their bridges and talked about the London Eye. What we were looking for was somebody who actually understood the issues on each side of the river and were going to respond to that with something unique and that’s what we were looking for. And because Heatherwick had done all that work before, obviously they were prepared to respond to that because they’d done the work, because they were almost, not incumbent, but they’d already spent time at their own cost doing it, whereas the other two hadn’t.

MH: So it wasn’t a fair — I think they were incumbent.

RdC: Is it fair if you exclude them?

MH: No, I would have just appointed them and been much more open and transparent about appointing them, then you wouldn’t have had this problem with it.

RdC: So we did a mini-competition for a very low-value piece of work, £50,000, with quite a high-level brief and the whole thing was very, very quick. There was enormous pressure to do this quickly, to go through the assessment, the selection, and get whoever it was on board quickly so the work could start, so this could be delivered in that mayoral term.

MH: So you’re telling me that there was absolutely no indication or pressure or anything that said to you, “We want Heatherwick to design it”.

RdC: The decision was — the process we’re going for, I can’t remember what the option was in here, the option with the mini-competition, Heatherwick have to be in it.

MH: You were never told that you had to —

RdC: “Make sure Heatherwick win it”? No.

MH: You never felt, during this process under any pressure to put Heatherwick — to make sure Heatherwick won this contract?

RdC: No, but I — having been involved in processes like this before, somebody who has spent the time and the effort to understand the background and come up with an idea is at a head-start in responding to a procurement than people who receive things cold. So, in a way, were Heatherwick always going to win this because of that advantage? Well, possibly, because they’ve done all the work. Was there a formal requirement that you must make sure Heatherwick win that? No. Did we construct a process that Heatherwick had to be part of? Yes. Did they win it? Yes, but perhaps they always would have won it because they’d done the work; they’d got a design.

So, in hindsight, what you’re saying is, would it have been easier just to recognise what they’d done for free, recognise that’s what’s wanted, and appoint them? That could have been a solution, yes. For the value of work, we didn’t need to do a procurement —

MH: And the other thing I don’t understand is why you split the work, you see. You split the work. It looks, reading the papers, that you split the work into this first contract and then second contract that Arup won to get through the OJEU. You look through all the amendments to that note that went up in the January and there have been a lot of — we’ve now been through eight drafts of that.

RdC: That’s not unusual in TfL, believe me.

MH: The drafts led you to an inevitable Heatherwick decision. That’s the thing you’re constantly up against. What seems odd to me is you’re an officer of the authority, you’re not a member, I can understand you’re put under pressure, a lot of Ministers put their permanent secretaries under similar pressure and I used to have these constant conversations about it. If you felt the process was wrong or had an inevitable outcome, why did you allow yourself to get involved in a process that then could be defined as being rigged?

RdC: It wasn’t.

MH: So everybody feels it’s rigged.

RdC: It wasn’t rigged. The problem with that process, and you have to remember that I spent five years dealing with this and I’ve moved on to a different career and I’ve had a lot of personal criticism about my role and the suggestion that it was me acting alone. I was not acting alone. I wasn’t even in the room when some of these decisions that defined the whole process were made, but I’ve had to carry the can for that. It wasn’t rigged. But was it a process that could Wilkinson Eyre have won this? If they’d have spent time developing their own proposal at their own cost, they could have put something forward but —

MH: They couldn’t have done within the week that you gave them.

RdC: — but they hadn’t done that, they told us about their experience elsewhere.

MH: But you gave them how long to prepare?

RdC: I don’t know, it’s maybe two weeks or something like that.

MH: Yes, they couldn’t have done that. They couldn’t have done it.

RdC: So, in that sense, the fact someone had done work at their own cost, do you exclude them? No. The remit was they need to be included. There’s a competition and Heatherwick needed to be included.

MH: So who took the decisions, Richard? Ed Lister says, “Entirely the procurement was down to TfL, not me, guv”.

RdC: So the process is a TfL process.

MH: So who took the decision that you had to do it?

RdC: So ultimately the instructions came from Michele, who was at the meeting —

MH: Are we seeing Michele?

CH: No, it’s a point actually.

MH: Well we should see Michele.

RdC: Michele was at the meeting and these options in here, you can see the options that were discussed with City Hall range from mini-competitions, big OJEUs[[Official Journal of the European Union], Heatherwick doing it on their own, private sponsorship strategy, a whole range of things. There was a scattering of ideas about how this could be taken forward. This paper was to set out those options and the timescales. The decision of which option was followed came at a meeting between TfL and City Hall.

MH: And City Hall. So who was at that meeting?

RdC: So that’s one of the weekly Mayor meetings.

MH: Where you weren’t at?

RdC: I didn’t go to those meetings. I was receiving instructions from Michele who was going to the meetings and coming back.

MH: But at those meetings would have been Ed Lister…?

RdC: The normal attendance at those meetings was mayoral advisers.

CH: Which would have been Ed, Isabel and the Mayor, along with Peter and whichever of his senior officers were appropriate at that point.

RdC: This note is a briefing for a mayoral meeting and what came out of that mayoral meeting was a decision to go for a particular option and my job, working to Michele, was to progress that option. So I did not do things in isolation.

MH: Okay, so the decision was to go for an option.

RdC: A mini-competition including Heatherwick.

MH: But so mini that it actually excluded others in effect.

RdC: The competition of three.

MH: Yes, de facto, if Heatherwick had had months and you gave the others two weeks.

RdC: But if somebody spent the time, and what I struggle with, if somebody has taken time to progress something at their own cost and initiative and it gives them a head-start into a process, do you exclude them because of that? What do you do?

MH: You don’t do a process that pretends it’s fair.

RdC: You just appoint them direct?

MH: Well you could have done under your…

RdC: We could have done for the value of it.

MH: For the value of it, yes.

RdC: But we didn’t because we wanted to get ideas from two others who had done some similar unusual work around the river.

MH: You didn’t give them much time.

RdC: What you are saying is we didn’t give them enough time to do that and perhaps in hindsight we should have given them longer to do that. The timescale pressure was coming from City Hall because this was seen as a second-term deliverable, so there were pressures to do this quickly and, as was referred to me, we need to get the A team on it and we need to progress this quickly because it was a mayoral priority in the second term.

MH: When did you hear it was a garden bridge?

RdC: I hadn’t actually seen the model or the design —

MH: Were you clear, did everybody talk to you about a garden bridge? Michele and everything?

RdC: Michele had described to me —

MH: From Heatherwick’s.

RdC: It’s Michele, because Michele’s my boss, so it was where it was, Temple/South Bank, that it was a bridge with gardens on it and it was wide and it was a cantilever bridge, so, yes, I’d had the description of what the Heatherwick proposal was.

MH: And why do you think she was not to put “Garden Bridge” into the agenda?

RdC: Because believe it or not, we wanted to give some flexibility to the other people to come forward with their own ideas and not look like it was a predetermined outcome for Heatherwick for their Garden Bridge. But you must see, maybe that sounds naive, but we were —

MH: It does a bit, yes. (Laughing)

RdC: But that’s what we were trying to do. We didn’t want –

MH: Well then you should have —

RdC: — we should have given them three months to do it and maybe paid them to develop their own designs to the same level, but we didn’t have time to do that and it was one of those things, it was a £50 grand study and it was just get on with it.

MH: £60 grand.

RdC: £60 grand, yes.

MH: Okay what you haven’t quite answered is why you split it — they were the only ones to come without any engineers, they came as designers, they’re not even architects?

RdC: That was covered in the paper. Some of the options were not splitting it and just going through an OJEU or going through the frameworks of —

MH: It feels that you chose the process to best benefit Heatherwick; that’s what it feels like.

RdC: Really nobody knew how this was going to be delivered because there was still, at the early stage, a view, which looking back was the wrong view, that this could be funded entirely by the private sector. So, if this could be funded entirely by the private sector, then TfL did not need to be intervening up front and doing lots of work early on, all we needed to do was get things going for the private sector to take the lead.

It became clear quite early on that that was unrealistic because of the scale of the task and all of the challenges around consents and approvals. But you can see from this paper there was a view and there was an appetite following the cable car and the Olympics and all that interest in London that the private sector could pick up the tab for the whole thing.

MH: That was the Mayor’s view.

RdC: Yes, that was the view from City Hall, yes. I don’t know because I wasn’t in the room, whether it’s his personal view, but you can see from this there was an interest in a private sector funding model.

MH: But that still doesn’t explain to me why you split the two contracts.

RdC: Because we wanted to do a bit at a time rather than commit ourselves to doing a very large volume of work and walk directly into being responsible for something that ultimately TfL did not want to do because the private sector could do. So the idea was we would do it incrementally and then just see where it got to rather than just commit to x-million pounds worth of work —

MH: It looks, Richard, like you split it because that was the easiest way of ensuring that Heatherwick won.

RdC: No, because, if the objective was get Heatherwick onboard, the OJEU would have allowed you to do that anyway. Under any scenario, we wouldn’t, because it would have gone to framework. The framework was the Arup procurement, so that doesn’t need OJEU, it’s already been OJEUed, so we don’t need OJEU with that. If you wanted to go straight to that procurement, you could have done that and asked them to include the design team, but we wanted to do the design work first to understand what this thing is, what’s the case for it and what’s the role going forward.

MH: And then they come in with the biggest figure, the highest figure, and we suddenly go from their top figure to day rates.

RdC: No, if you look at the ITT, it’s very clear this was about day rates, it says it in the document, I read it this morning, it —

MH: But why did put in the — presumably they gave you fewer days.

RdC: No, we ignored the total, because the evaluation, it’s in here. If you look in here, it says very clearly, “Evaluated on day rates”. I think if —

MH: I know you evaluate it on day rates, but why did they all put in the total sum?

RdC: I think, in here, there was a misunderstanding of what our requirements were and it was perceived as we want a fixed fee as well, but when you look at what we said we wanted, commercial, based on day rates; evaluation, based on day rates. That’s what we did.

MH: “We” is “you”, isn’t it? You were the one who did it. That’s the other point. You were the only one who evaluated.

RdC: So I reviewed the bids, yes.

MH: But you did it on your own.

RdC: I did the review of them and I went to Michele with the results of that and said, “This is what the procurement is, are you happy with this?” So, yes, I did that. It was, as you say, it was a very quick procurement, we were under pressure to do it very quickly. So, if you look at the audit, what the audit says is we should have separated –

MH: What is slightly frustrating me as I do this, from the outset, I don’t have any axe to grind against anybody, I don’t know any of you really, I don’t have a political axe to grind on it, believe it or not, so —

RdC: Looking back on this, with the amount of scrutiny and interest in this, gosh, we would have done this very differently, believe me we would have done. But, at the time, this was a very quick small thing, it wasn’t the biggest thing we were doing, it was a thing that came out of City Hall that we needed to do quickly. It grew into an enormous thing with enormous complexities and difficulties around it, but when we kicked it off it was a small thing. But, yes, I — we would do this differently again.

MH: And the other thing that comes out of this note, which suggests that you had some sort of relationship with Heatherwick, was that one of your ideas was that they carry on. Clearly a view around at that time that the whole thing could be funded privately and you therefore thought, “Why doesn’t Heatherwick carry on doing it pro bono?”

RdC: That was one of the options in the paper.

MH: Yes, but they clearly said they weren’t prepared to do that, so they must have told somebody, one of you in TfL.

RdC: I hadn’t heard that. I hadn’t had the dialogue with Heatherwick. That was done through Michele. So whether that’s because of a comment from Heatherwick or because that’s based on our own analysis, I wasn’t the only person that contributed to this, you will see from the ten drafts of emails that there were countless inputs from legal people and others about the drafting of this note.

MH: So it’s really Michele that I should be talking to.

RdC: If you’re asking questions —

MH: Where is Michele now?

RdC: TfL still, Crossrail 2. If you’re interested in the original genesis of the project and how the instructions came from City Hall, that came through those meetings, which I wasn’t a part of.

MH: I’ve got to deal with the allegation that was it or was it not a rigged competition that they were bound to win, and they’re funded through public money.

RdC: It wasn’t —

MH: If it was all private it wouldn’t matter.

RdC: It wasn’t rigged. Was it — I’m not going to use the word “flawed”, but could I just do it differently now. It was a small quick procurement at the time.

MH: Yes, which they were bound to win. I think we agree about that.

RdC: Because they had done the work before. But the decision —

MH: But we knew they had done that.

RdC: But the other thing, Margaret, the decision to include the two other firms, and two good firms, one of which had worked for me quite recently on the cable car, Wilkinson Eyre, was because we wanted them to put their best bids forward. We wanted some competition and we wanted some alternative ideas. What we got was a load of stuff about bridges, but what you’re saying is they didn’t have time to do that, so that’s the thing that you would probably do different, yes.

MH: Okay, let me just look through this, if there’s anything else I need you to… one of these earlier drafts indicates that some sort of advertised competition is required and could be handled through local press. That was an early draft. The competition could follow a conventional procurement process. That all went in later drafts. There are all these sort of things, they all come together, Richard, -· I can tell you, Ed Lister and — are saying this is all down to you guys at TfL.

RdC: The only reason TfL was doing the Garden Bridge was because we had full Mayoral Directions and instructions from City Hall.

MH: You didn’t have the first Mayoral Direction until much later.

RdC: No, we didn’t, no, but the instruction to do the work came from City Hall. You don’t get Mayoral Direction on day one.

MH: That’s why I wonder whether the instruction wasn’t for a garden bridge.

RdC: Well the instruction was to include a process that Heatherwick could put their proposal into, which was for a garden bridge. If the ITT —

MH: Had said a garden bridge, you’d have got different proposals from the others.

RdC: Yes, that’s absolutely right. The ITT should have said more and it didn’t.

MH: Or you should have just done without it, you should have been up front and said – which I think is perfectly all right under your processes – “Right, Heatherwick have done this work, we want to take it forward”.

RdC: If we were genuinely trying to — we wouldn’t have included Wilkinson Eyre and Marks Barfield, because they are people that could actually compete head to head with Heatherwick. We’d have gone for some people that couldn’t compete.

MH: Okay, we’re probably going around the houses, I’m just checking here. In those early days, this was in the original note, it went in and out, I can’t remember, about the risks to TfL of engaging in this. There’s endless emails with Peter saying, “I haven’t got the money in the budget, I haven’t got the money in the budget”.

RdC: Yes.

MH: But it’s the risks of getting involved, so this is your first time you were actually going to spend money on it.

RdC: Yes.

MH: What was your view of — I think you put in here, “TfL would be exposed to a contribution up to £6 million”, is what you thought?

RdC: Yes, that was the work on planning, progressing it, yes.

MH: Progressing it. And who said, “That’s fine, we’ll wear that”?

RdC: Is that from the paper?

MH: That’s from one of these, it goes in or out, is that red, it goes in?

CH: Yes, I think so.

MH: It’s an amendment, it’s 13 May. What I’m trying to get out of you, whether I take it out of this quote or not, is there were financial risks to TfL, there was no budget provision for this, did the chair of the board of TfL, ie the Mayor, say, “I’m prepared to” — who took the onus of —

RdC: Yes, who accepted there was risk and it was reasonable risk?

The way it worked, prior to the Mayoral Direction, our initial involvement in the formal briefings came through the Mayor’s meetings, so papers to those Mayor’s meetings, of which that’s one.

MH: And we don’t have the papers for those meetings, do we? Because they don’t exist?

CH: No, they don’t.

MH: Is there not a decision note that comes out of the meetings?

CH: There used to be notes, an email circulated by the Mayor’s head of office that would —

MH: Who, Ed Lister?

CH: No. I don’t know who it was at the time, but it’s —

MH: Scandalous way of approaching it, you’ve got to put this down. You can’t have meetings that are not minuted that commit to expenditure. This is a public authority.

RdC: So the paper that went to the Mayor with these options in, that Mayor’s meeting talked about —

MH: And you didn’t get a written decision out of it?

RdC: No, we don’t for those meetings, no. The level of expenditure that TfL was committing to was within the financial authority of Michele and —

MH: I understand that, but did she take the decision for it to go ahead?

RdC: She would have been at the meeting to receive that as a decision, but at that level it’s not written down because it’s within the individual’s financial authority.

MH: Okay.

RdC: That comes later in the MDs.

CH: That’s what you asked Howard to come back on it in a bit more detail about —

MH: Well I would like to see any minutes of those meetings, if there are any.

CH: No, I’ve tried both TfL and GLA side of it and no one has them.

RdC: I don’t think they even have those email notes in the early —

MH: There was obviously a decision taken not to have minutes.

CH: I think that’s probably fair.

RdC: I don’t know what happens now with the new Mayor and his meetings.

MH: Well, I can recommend how he operates.

So then we go on to — you’re telling me that you didn’t have any conversation with Heatherwick about their day rates either?

RdC: No, there was a clarification during the tender process about — what we were saying in the tender, we want to evaluate people on day rates and we were trying to match equivalent people, but they call them different things in different firms. Principal is something like that, so the contact with Heatherwick, with the business development person there or the commercial person, was, “When you talk about this person being a principal, do you mean that level or that level?” so we could do the equivalent kind of benchmarking of people. So there was a clarification during that process with Heatherwick about what they mean about who is with what rate. But that was a clarification.

CH: Can I just pick up on that because one of the things that Thomas Heatherwick has submitted, said that there was a call and that they lowered their rate as a result of that call.

RdC: I don’t — there was the Arup procurement.

CH: No, this is what Thomas Heatherwick has submitted to Margaret since he met with her and he said that a call happened.

RdC: Yes, we had the clarification of rates and is that when he confirmed he was free?

CH: I don’t know.

RdC: So, no, there wasn’t —

CH: His description to Margaret was, “There was a conversation and we agreed to lower our rate because we were committed to the project”.

RdC: No.

CH: That’s different to what the audit report said.

RdC: Yes, so we had the conversation about — I can’t remember the names of the people in the team, because Thomas wasn’t the main person, it was somebody Stewart. “These people you are talking about who will do the work, which price level do they match at”, and they came back and said, “These people are in this price level”. So in doing so they may have chosen to put people into the cheaper price bracket, but I did not say to Thomas Heatherwick, “Reduce your rates”. I said, “Confirm which people apply to what rate”, and they came back and said, “These people apply to these rates”. If he took a commercial view on that and said, “Stewart, or whoever, who was the main person, is a rate £500 a day, not £700 a day”, that’s up to them, I didn’t ask them to do that.

MH: So he changed.

RdC: I have no idea, no, I just said, “You need to clarify which people apply to which rates”, because it wasn’t clear, and he came back and said, “These people apply to these rates”. So if he’s saying, in doing that, he matched people to lower rates so they could give a more competitive bid, that’s not —

MH: Had he any idea he wasn’t competitive?

RdC: No, not at all, it wasn’t, “You are too expensive, you need to put your rates down”, it was, “It’s not clear who the hell these people are and what you mean by them. Who is the principal, who is the studio architect?” whatever the terms were. His company came back and said, “These people relate to these rates”. So I can see how he, in doing so, would say that was a lowering of rates, but it wasn’t an instruction to lower rates at all.

MH: Okay. Let’s do the Arup first and then we’ll come back to this other thing. So the Arup one, which did go through a proper process, but we lost the papers, the assessment.

RdC: You’re talking about which papers, when, were lost? Because that’s been misquoted as well. The way the Arup process worked, off the framework, so I can’t remember, 11, 13 suppliers, narrow it down.

MH: They came 7th out of 11.

RdC: The way those processes work is you get the scores from the individual people. wasn’t involved in any of the scoring on Arup, I didn’t attend the interview, I —

MH: It says that you asked for them to be interviewed. You were involved because you asked for them to be interviewed.

RdC: No, I didn’t attend the interview.

MH: No, but you asked for them to be interviewed.

RdC: I asked for them to be interviewed, yes, absolutely, you would always interview people on that value of work for that length of commitment, yes.

MH: But they were 7th and you still asked for them to be interviewed. Or they were more expensive; they didn’t look as if they came up, but you instructed them to put them on the interview. You instructed that, out of all those who bid, you didn’t interview all of them.

RdC: No, we interviewed four, I think, or three.

MH: Somewhere in the papers there is that you instructed, so you did get involved, you can’t say you didn’t get involved, you instructed them.

RdC: let me be very clear here, I was very involved in this, but I was not involved in the evaluation of the submissions of those consultants.

MH: No, but you did instruct that they…

RdC: We had a panel of people doing that evaluation, including the commercials, and that panel came together at key points —

MH: Who work for you.

RdC: Not all of them, no, some worked in Commercial, Procurement and Legal. Some worked for me, not all of them. Some worked for other teams in Michele’s department.

MH: Okay.

RdC: So they came together at various points and I can’t remember exactly the process, the scoring, how it works, but there was Arup were technically strong but more expensive. That’s why they went on the interview list and their score went up, I didn’t go into the interview. That’s when the decision was made through the panel that we would ask them to reconsider their rates.

MH: Who rang them?

RdC: I rang them. So I rang the Arup client contact for TfL and that was agreed through the panel with procurement people. As you can see from the audit, that is not best practice, that is not what we should have done, we should have gone back to everybody. But the argument that everyone put and the debate we had was they are so much further ahead technically, there is no value in the others reconsidering their bid because they can’t catch up.

MH: So it was a similar thing to Heatherwick, they’d been working on it forever.

RdC: So the phrase that was used is there is clear water between Arup technically and the others, but they’re too expensive, and —

MH: But clear water because they’d worked on it for months.

RDC: But what can we do about that?

MH: Well not pretend to run a fair — I’m trying to think of an equivalent, but if they’d worked on it, you know…

RdC: I don’t think they’d done that much work actually. They’d done something with Mace.

MH: They’d done with Mace, they went on this visit to the cable car to look at the equivalence of it, they are mentioned in that note there as having done work on it, so all I can see they undoubtedly had an advantage and, in having that advantage, in the same way that Heatherwick, to then be rung up and told, “Lower your day rates, you’re too expensive”, it was wrong.

RdC: We should have gone back to all of them.

MH: Well, should you have interviewed them, given that assessment?

RdC: I don’t remember, Margaret, them — I don’t remember the decision to interview being one that they were lowly scored and I was forcing them to go on — I don’t remember that at all. I remember the conversation about the interviews and they need to have interviews, I don’t remember who the other companies were that were interviewed, and I played no part in that. The panel did that together with the procurement people. I was very arm’s length from the detail of that procurement because at that point we had a team of people working on the Garden Bridge to do it. When we did the Heatherwick one we had nobody. I had like a day to do it, to write the stuff, the instruction from Michele, “Get on with it”. But with that we had a team of people and they led it.

MH: Okay.

RdC: Can we do the papers, because you mentioned the papers, missing papers?

MH: Yes.

RdC: So, the project manager for the work in Michele’s team, he led the procurement panel. All the scores and the assessments were recorded on a master spreadsheet held by procurement. That existed all the way through this, still exists, it’s been kept. The papers were the handwritten notes that the person that managed the procurement made during the interviews of the four on their submissions.

He kept those on his desk for two and a half years. We then changed the office into a flexible working, no one’s got a desk, and everyone cleared their papers. What should have happened is those papers should have been collected by Procurement and kept for x-years. They weren’t and that is wrong. And that’s not the fault of the person that did that. He would be horrified, he’s absolutely mortified that he’s been criticised for that. It was the processes within TfL; that clarity on who owns that sort of material wasn’t clear, and they should be kept by Procurement. So it wasn’t they were just ditched.

MH: I am more worried about why they were interviewed and then the ringing up and getting them to…

RdC: The fact they were interviewed was because they were in the top performing and the ringing up was an agreed decision from the panel.

MH: And then they offered you a job.

RdC: Do you want to do that now?

MH: No, at the end really, but central government works in a different way.

RdC: Well I’m not sure it does, does it? What do you mean?

MH: Well, I think you wouldn’t be allowed to go and work for — you’d be kept — it doesn’t work brilliantly at central government. One of my themes in my book that, you know, there’s too many revolving doors.

RdC: Sorry, no, I would like to deal with that now, because you’ve raised it, because that has been the most difficult thing for me out of all of this.

MH: I know for Arup, because it’s a tiny little contract this, for Arup, that’s what’s so absurd about it.

RdC: So I don’t expect you to read that now, but I wanted you to have it because, you know, some people have said some really unpleasant things about my role in this, which have been personally very damaging to me and my career, and the process I went through to get the job at Arup was a competitive one. I was recruited through a process of four interviews, through a recruitment consultant, from a long list down to my role. That is all the background to that. If this was rigged that would not have happened. And if you genuinely think there’s something in that you need to speak to all those people because this is really quite damaging for me personally.

If you Google my name now, people want to find out who is the consultant being put forward for work, the first thing that comes up is, “RdC, Garden Bridge, procurement scandal, Arup, corrupt, Kate Hoey”. The fact that she can say that without any evidence or any input from me — she’s never even asked me a question about it, she’s just said things that have damaged me personally. So if you genuinely think there’s something in that you need to explore that and deal with it.

MH: I’ll tell you what I think. I just have a view on these things that you have to spend, it’s like a private sector contractor, if TfL were a private sector business, you would have had something in your contract, which wouldn’t have allowed you to go to a competitor.

RdC: Competitor? It’s a supplier.

MH: Well… Yes, but there would have been something, which…

RdC: There is nothing in my contract.

MH: I know, I know, I don’t think it’s good.

RdC: It’s not my fault.

MH: I don’t think it’s good.

RdC: I didn’t get the job because I’d given them a — I gave more contracts to other firms than Arup.

MH: One of the things that has been said to me, I don’t know whether it’s true or not, is that the two other two firms that you did put on that tender list were furious but daren’t challenge because they want other work out of TfL, so it’s a very closed little world you operate in.

RdC: Well, hold on, I can see how there’s so many people who are orbiting around the Garden Bridge with things to say…

MH: But it is a very closed world.

RdC: If those other two firms, five, or however many years on it is, three or four years on, have got a problem, you know, they should say something.

MH: No, they won’t, because they want the work from TfL, you can see why. lt’s a tiny little thing, they don’t want to be involved in this. I bet if you were in Arup now and something like that happened, you’d think, “Okay, we’ll scrap it, we don’t want to get involved in that”.

RdC: So none of those, or those two firms that didn’t get the work, or the other people on the engineering framework that were competing against Arup, none of them ever came to me or anyone else in TfL to say —

MH: No, because they want work from TfL. You can understand that.

RdC: I can also understand, so people do challenge TfL if they’re unhappy about procurement decisions, people do.

MH: Yes, but they have to take a judgement, don’t they?

RdC: Yes, so I can’t answer that question because I’m not them, all I’m saying is the suggestion that I took a role at Arup is somehow connected with that decision is absolutely wrong and you can read that if you find it interesting, it’s basically lots of stuff about interviews from the recruitment consultant. If you’re in the world of Kate Hoey, that’s all a charade because I wrote those emails myself to make it look like it, but I tell you it’s not.

MP: Yes, yes, yes.

RdC: But that’s been very, very personally damaging for me.

MH: Okay, yes, I hear that — I can understand that. l’m sorry about that, but —

RdC: And upsetting for my family as well.

MH: — that’s why I think these rules about revolving doors —

RdC: Yes, but they don’t exist.

MH: No, all right, well that’s another thing we might make a little reference to.

RdC: Actually, I’m one of the few people at TfL to leave of my own free choice. Three months later a load of people got paid off. So, you know, actually I left the public sector and it’s like somehow that’s wrong.

MH: It is this revolving door issue, it’s really difficult, I’ve come across it in transport before a — you know, when I was doing the PAC work I came across it. It’s areas where there is a very small bunch of professionals. You come across it in tax, defence, there are particular areas of the world — Just have a time, a period of time, that’s really what it is, it’s about a period of time and then if at the end of it they still want you then you go. And it’s a decision people have to take. But I accept that there were no rules so you haven’t broken any rule, I accept that.

Just going on — thank you for that. Just going on to the amendments to the audit report that — you don’t have to explain to me, I know how audit reports work and I know that you go through them. The only thing that is interesting about this one is that the emphasis appears to have altered, so one that was critical of you and the process, some of which I think you’d accept, to one that said, “Actually it was all value for money, so why did we bother?” Did you want to just talk me through the general?

RdC: About how that process worked?

MH: Well I know how it works.

RdC: Have you seen the audit report?

MH: I’ve seen the to-ing and fro-ing, I think I’ve got —

RdC: And you’ve seen who was commenting on the to-ing and fro-ing?

MH: Go on, tell me, I probably haven’t done that. You I’ve got, Howard, who’s Howard?

RdC: Chief lawyer.

Written by John Bull
John Bull is the Editor of London Reconnections. A transport journalist and historian, his writing often focuses on the political or strategic challenges facing London's transport network and beyond.