TERMINAL buildings at St Ives and Longstanton park-and-ride sites for the world s longest guided busway have been delayed by a dispute between the contractor and Cambridgeshire County Council. But the council insists the £116.2million project is still on
TERMINAL buildings at St Ives and Longstanton park-and-ride sites for the world's longest guided busway have been delayed by a dispute between the contractor and Cambridgeshire County Council.
But the council insists the £116.2million project is still on course to open next spring on the line of the disused St Ives-Cambridge railway.
Contractor BAM Nuttall says it is costing more to build than expected, and it wants the county to pay more. But CCC believes it has firmly screwed down its liability for cost overruns to less than £5million, which is already factored into the £116.2million price-tag, which includes £92.5million form central Government.
Although such claims are routine in major civil engineering projects, involving a progression through posturing, adjudication, arbitration and, possibly, action in the High Court, the county council believes its position is watertight and Council Tax payers will not be called on for a penny more.
Bob Menzies, who is responsible for delivering the scheme, told The Hunts Post: "We believe there is a small risk to us. We also believe the contractors' cost estimates are pessimistic."
Deferring the park-and-ride buildings means that CCC will save £1.2million in the short term, but the decision could deter some drivers from making the shift to the guided bus if they think quality has been compromised.
The council, which says it has no idea how long the dispute-resolution process will take, insists that the money will still be there in the future to build the park-and-ride sites properly when the issue is cleared up. In the meantime, there will still be toilets and bus shelters, but it was not what was promised.
Cabinet member for transport Councillor Matt Bradney said the decision to defer the terminal buildings was "cautious and prudent" and would not affect the operation of the project.
The Liberal Democrat opposition said the busway was now forecast to cost £6million more than expected.
Group leader Councillor David Jenkins said: "All credit to the officers for agreeing a tough contract and managing this difficult project, but nothing can conceal the fact that it was an unpopular project to start with and that it was squeezed into a financial straightjacket.
"We are now seeing the impact on its schedule, its cost and on how much the county council is going to have to put in to fund it. The Tory cabinet made strong commitments when the it decided to go ahead with this project in July 2006 and it has failed to meet them. It has broken its promises to the people of Cambridge.
"We were told that it would open next February and now we know it will not. We were told that no Cambridgeshire taxpayers' money would be needed and now we know that it will.
"We were promised top quality park-and-ride facilities in Longstanton and St Ives when it opened, and now we know we are not going to get them until later.