Cambs guided busway still unlikely before October

GUIDED busway contractor BAM Nuttall has missed yet another self-imposed deadline on the already-two-years-late and way-over-budget contract.

The company had told Cambridgeshire County Council that it would have submitted the last of the paperwork for the 25-km ‘longest busway in the world’ by last Friday.

The fact that, according to the council, there were 20 construction certificates outstanding – 18 of them re-submissions – means the guideway is unlikely to be open to passengers before October.

By Tuesday evening there were just five outstanding, and BAM had promised to submit them by Friday, the council said.

Once submitted, the certificates have to be checked by the council’s engineering consultants Atkins and approved. Even if the final certificates were submitted today and proved satisfactory, the project would be into April before final approval.

After that, BAM has 28 days to fix what the council says are six defects – three of them significant. BAM disputes that, claiming the work already done fulfils the contract terms.

Assuming, as CCC does, that that does not happen, the council has lined up another civil engineering contractor to carry out the three months’ remedial work it wants done.

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After that, the bus operators need time for driver training and route learning before the paying public is allowed on – a total of five months after approval of the final construction certificate.

The flagship �116.7million project, which links St Ives with Cambridge Science Park (northern section) and Cambridge railway station with Trumpington and Addenbrooke’s Hospital (southern section), was due to be handed over to the county after completion in February 2009, and to be open to the public in April that year. In fact, it has cost around �180m and will be two-and-a-half years late – possibly more – when it eventually opens.

The county council is seeking legal advice on whether the continued failure to complete the project amounts in law to wilful ‘frustration’ of the contract. But even the current slow rate of progress may be enough to rule that out.