St Ives-Cambridge guided busway - still no progress on defects

PUBLISHED: 07:37 06 August 2010

The Guided Busway during a day of testing

The Guided Busway during a day of testing

GEOFF ROBINSON

BUSWAY contractor BAM Nuttall has still made no progress on the six defects identified by Cambridgeshire County Council between St Ives and Cambridge Science Park.

BUSWAY contractor BAM Nuttall has still made no progress on the six defects identified by Cambridgeshire County Council between St Ives and Cambridge Science Park.

But the southern section, linking Cambridge railway station with Trumpington and Addenbrooke’s Hospital seems to be coming on apace.

The £116million project, which is already 18 months late and looks set to cost £160million, could be handed over by the end of the year, but with no guarantee that it will be usable.

In the meantime, Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service has carried out test runs along the guideway as a practice for reaching the scene quickly if a bus were reported to be on fire. The police and ambulance service will also have access, but will usually use the maintenance track.

The outstanding defects on the northern section of what will be the world’s longest busway when it eventually opens – probably at least two years late – include the omission of expansion joints from each end of the new viaduct over the Great Ouse between St Ives and Fenstanton, increasing the likelihood of heavy future maintenance bills and the risk of closure for repair.

The nearby St Ives park-and-ride car park has been built with insufficient slope to drain properly after heavy rain, and the contractor has demanded what the council believes is a grossly inflated price to put it right.

Parts of the maintenance track that runs alongside the guideway have been built so low that they are liable to flooding all year round – instead of just the few days each year when the river bursts its banks and the surrounding land is inundated, which would have been acceptable.

The other ‘defects’ are foundations that are too shallow, inadequate space for expansion of the guideway in hot weather and the possible fire risk from the use of shredded tyres as infill instead of gravel.

It is possible that BAM Nuttall will walk away from the project after completion of the southern section with the six disputed ‘defects’ unresolved. Although some can be fixed while buses are running, others – including the expansion joints – will need to be done before services start.

That would put a serious launch of revenue-earning services well into next year, though a token service could operate at Christmastime if the project were handed over, the council wished it and the operators, Stagecoach and Whippet, agreed.

The emergency services are using the delay to finalise arrangements for when the busway eventually starts to carry passengers.

Bob Menzies, the county council’s head of busway delivery, said: “The council already has plans in place with the emergency services to deal with emergency situations if they occur on the busway. To help put the plans together and to check access is easy emergency vehicles have already been down to the track and maintenance road.

“The plans also cover how the vehicles will access the route during times when the path next to the guideway is flooded as we have always said that it is likely to be under water for a few days each winter.”

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue operations manager Bruce Parcell added: “The guided busway is easier for us to access than the old railway line would have been, as fire engines can drive on the track as well as a maintenance road being available. We will actually drive on the busway track to deal with most situations that could occur, such as a bus fire.”

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