Report highlights poor relationship between Cambs County Council and BAM Nuttall but guided busway contract was ‘appropriate’

Guided busway

Guided busway - Credit: Archant

The multi-million pound guided busway contract was appropriate for the time, an independent review has said.

But there are lessons to be learned from the project that ended in a legal spat.

Cambridgeshire County Council instigated the review into the contract after the project ran into problems and delays, resulting in the builder, BAM Nuttall, repaying £33million of the £147m costs to settle a long-running dispute about who should pay for the overspend for the concrete route between St Ives and Cambridge.

The initial contract was for 130 weeks of work, with the completion date on February 27, 2009, but the busway construction was not completed until April 2011 and not open for use until August of that year as CCC raised concerns about defects along the guideway.

William Edwards, of EC Harris Built Asset Consultancy, revealed lessons could be learned from the busway contract for future large-scale projects as part of a review presented to CCC’s economy and environment committee yesterday (Tuesday).

Mr Edwards found two issues that could have contributed to the delays and overspend.

The first was BAM Nuttall did not think the design was as complete as it expected it to be when the contract was awarded.

Most Read

The other was the involvement of a consultant to review the design – something Mr Edwards regarded as not being value for money. It also removed responsibility from the contractor’s designer, he said.

Mr Edwards also suggested that a steering group could have played a more strategic role, particularly around spring 2008, to resolve differences between CCC and BAM Nuttall. He added the project team, consisting of CCC, BAM Nuttall and Atkins staff, did not “work at all well together” and the relationship became acrimonious in 2008.

The report also noted that as the issues between the parties increased, both CCC and BAM Nuttall increased resources to deal with them, adding to the project’s cost.

Mr Edwards concluded: “My overall conclusion is that the procurement process, the contract conditions and contract administration were appropriate for the time.”

He said 10 years on from the initial process, improvements have been made to new engineering contracts but where there is a mixture of funding from local authorities and the Department for Transport, early contractor involvement should be encouraged in the future.

And the cost of the report? £20,000 plus VAT.