Thursday, February 10, 2011
A WEEK after missing the latest deadline for finishing the Cambridgeshire guided busway more than two years late, the scheme’s contractor has been told to finish the paperwork and clear off.
The longest guided busway in the world – a total of 25km – should have been handed over in February 2009, with commercial bus services starting in April of that year.
Projected opening dates and deadlines have come and gone, the latest an undertaking from contractor BAM Nuttall Limited (BNL) to have handed over the last of scores of completion certificates last week.
Now an exasperated Cambridgeshire County Council chief executive Mark Lloyd has written to the company to demand the last of the paperwork.
Virtually all that is outstanding are proof that the Shelford Road bridge is fit for purpose, a final report to confirm the stability of earthworks where the busway goes along old railway cuttings between St Ives and Cambridge Science Park, Evidence that work on the Trumpington retaining wall meets the required standards and that National Grid has approved it, acceptance from Network Rail of how the Hills Road bridge in Cambridge will be maintained, and a final guarantee through completed documents that the work has been carried out to the standards required in the contract.
“These issues are entirely in BNL’s hands and consequently so too is the point at which the busway can open for use,” Mr Lloyd told the company.
“All these issues could have been dealt with before now and should not have been left to this late stage.”
Once these final certificates are in the council’s hands and accepted, it becomes possible to predict and opening date for the guideway.
The contractor has 28 days to carry out remedial work demanded by CCC, including to the park-and-ride car park in St Ives, the viaduct over the River Great Ouse between St Ives and Fenstanton and raising the level of the and maintenance track and bridleway through the Fen Drayton Lakes area.
After that, the council can bring in another contractor to finish any outstanding work – likely to take around three months – before the two bus operators, Stagecoach and Whippet, can get their crews and vehicles onto the busway for driver-training and route-learning.
That means the earliest the busway could be carrying paying passengers is mid-July, even if BAM responds instantly to comply with Mr Lloyd’s request. The track record suggests that is unlikely.
In the meantime, CCC is deducting £14,000 a day from the contractor for late delivery of the scheme – in spite of having already paid BAM an estimated £45m too much for the project. The council is likely to have to ask a High Court judge for the money back, a move the company is expected to resist strenuously.
BAM, which said it had not been given advance notice of the council’s letter, added: “We just want to hand the job over and for buses to run.”