TfL Thames Gateway Bridge project

Ashurst sees off DWS, Herbies for TfL contract


has fought off fierce competition from Herbert Smith to scoop an instruction to advise Transport for London (TfL) on the construction of the controversial Thames Gateway Bridge.

Last month Ashurst beat Herbert Smith, Denton Wilde Sapte (DWS) and a handful of other firms to the work following a competitive tender.

The mandate is a coup for Ashurst, particularly for Mark Elsey and Philip Vernon, the two partners who won the pitch. Although the top 10 City firm has strong ties with TfL, this is believed to be the first time the government agency has instructed Ashurst directly.

Historically, the City firm has been the principal adviser to Crossrail, the joint venture launched between TfL and the Strategic Rail Authority to build a rail link across London.

Ashurst also has a relationship with the Docklands Light Railway, the public body owner of the automated light railway system that serves the Docklands area. That relationship was weakened in 2001, though, when real estate partner Charles Leach quit Ashurst to join Rowe & Maw (now Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw).

The tender follows confirmation in August that TfL had appointed Eversheds to handle high-volume work for the government agency.

As first reported in The Lawyer (2 August), the appointment of Eversheds coincided with a huge reduction in the number of lawyers employed by TfL.

The proposed £350m Thames Gateway Bridge, linking Beckton to Thamesmead in East London, will be the capital’s first road bridge since the QEII bridge at Dartford, Kent, opened in 1991.

The planning application for the Thames Gateway Bridge was submitted to the London boroughs of Newham and Greenwich in July.

Herbert Smith and DWS declined to comment.