CAMBRIDGESHIRE Guided Busway, the £116million project that was supposed not to cost Council Tax payers a bean, could end up costing them £90m if everything goes wrong.

The county council’s Liberal Democrat opposition has used the council’s own figure to demonstrate the effect of losing the £55m dispute with contractor BAM Nuttall over the project’s cost overrun in the courts.

The construction cost, land acquisition and the council’s own costs are together expected to end up having cost the county council around £180m, though it is claiming most of the overrun back from BAM, which has already been penalised more than £10m because the project was delivered more than two years late.

Now the Lib Dems say that, if all the council’s claims fail, it will be saddled with an extra £21m in interest payments.

“Although the likelihood of the council losing the case outright is remote, this raises the council’s maximum liability in the event of such a loss to over £90m, and potentially raises the total bill for the project well above £200m,” a party spokesman said.

Lib-Dem county councillor and leader of the opposition Kilian Bourke added: “I am glad the busway is finally up and running and that people are using it.

“These new figures, however, show that the scale of the risk is even bigger than had previously been suggested, with £90m of taxpayers’ money at stake in court. This means that, if the county council lost even part of the court case, the implications for public services around Cambridgeshire would be far-reaching.

“The bottom line is that the Conservatives must keep their promise not to spend one penny of local taxpayers’ money on this project. The change of leadership doesn’t change this in the slightest. Nick Clarke must make good on his predecessors’ promises. The people of Cambridgeshire demand nothing less.”

Councillor Ian Bates, cabinet member for growth and planning, retorted: “As Cllr Bourke says himself, this is a completely theoretical worst case scenario, which would require us to lose 100 per cent of the court cases.

“The numbers are unchanged and are included in our final accounts, which were approved by external auditors who are content with our judgment. The council has a duty to deliver best value for Cambridgeshire taxpayers, and we are taking the necessary actions to achieve this.”