BUILDING the St Ives-Cambridge guided busway is now expected to cost nearly two-thirds more than the target price – an overrun of well over £50million.

BUILDING the St Ives-Cambridge guided busway is now expected to cost nearly two-thirds more than the target price – an overrun of well over £50million.

Cambridgeshire County Council, which is promoting the scheme, expects construction to have cost £142m.

When the cost of land, the county council’s own costs and those of its engineering consultants Atkins are added, the total cost of the project looks set to reach £170m before the High Court decides who pays the final bills.

When originally proposed in the early 2000s, the scheme was costed at £56m. After a few modifications, a lengthy public inquiry and Government approval, the bill had risen to £116.7m. The Government promised to chip in £92.5m, with the balance coming from developers who would benefit from the project.

Not a penny, we were promised, would be paid by Council Tax payers.

Of that £116.7m project cost, the target price for construction work by the ultimately successful tenderer, Edmund (now BAM) Nuttall, was £87.5m, later reduced to £86m when the county council decided not to proceed with public buildings at the two park-and-ride sites, at St Ives and Longstanton, and with the ‘kiss and ride’ (short-term forecourt parking) facility planned for Swavesey.

Even with the county taking its limited share of cost overruns, its exposure should be no more than £90m, according to Bob Menzies, who is in charge of delivering the already-two-years-late project.

But with construction costs now expected to reach £142m, the project will be £52m over-spent by the time BAM Nuttall leaves site early next year with alleged ‘defects’ still unrectified.

Both agree that this £50m dispute will be resolved only in the Royal Courts of Justice, and the council has budgeted for barristers’ fees of £5m to fight the case.

CCC is confident of attracting the support of the judges when the time comes.

It said this week: “The council has been clear that it is not prepared to accept the route on a ‘sold as seen’ basis with outstanding liabilities.

“BNL must demonstrate why they are due to be paid more than the contracted final target price.”

When will the guideway open?

readers who have already submitted bids to our sweepstake on the opening date will be glad they have not had to buy tickets if they think anything earlier than Easter next year could be feasible.

Current expectations are that BAM will hand over its completion certificates on or before December 17, when its workers disappear for their two-week Christmas break.

If all the paperwork is in order, the contractor then has four weeks to fix the three outstanding disputed ‘defects’ – the sub-standard expansion joints on the viaduct over the River Great Ouse between St Ives and Fenstanton, the drainage in the car park at the St Ives park-and-ride in Meadow Lane, and the unacceptable flooding of the maintenance track alongside the busway between St Ives and Longstanton.

The earliest the county council could let a new contract – probably for around £1.5m – to fix the faults would be mid-January and work will take a couple of months.

n To take part in the Guess the Opening Date compeition, e-mail editor@huntspost.co.uk or write to The Hunts Post, 30 High Street, Huntingdon PE29 3TB.