Guided busway paperwork ‘could be finished by Friday’

THE final paperwork for the Cambridgeshire guided busway could be in place by the end of the week.

And, if a deal can be struck in shifting some outstanding minor work into a separate contract, Cambridgeshire County Council could soon be setting an autumn opening date for the two-and-a-half years late project.

The council’s cabinet heard yesterday that only two mandatory and safety-critical documents remained outstanding – a routine electrical safety certificate that had already been completed but had been lost, and the design certificate for Trumpington cutting in south Cambridge on the stretch between the city and Addenbrooke’s.

“We believe they are nearly there, and we could have them before the end of the week,” a council spokesman said yesterday (Tuesday).

If the contractor, BAM Nuttall, will also agree to shifting some minor works into a schedule of things that were already going to have to wait until after the end of the contract – particularly seasonally-sensitive planting – that would clear the decks for the countdown to an opening date.

“These are small items that really should not stand in the way of the thing being handed over,” the council said.

Though unlikely, such an agreement could theoretically happen quite quickly, the council said.

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When it does, the timescale becomes much clearer. A line is drawn under the contract – which was scheduled to have been delivered in February 2009 and has been costing BAM nearly �100,000 a week in liquidated damages ever since – triggering a 28-day period during which the contractor can rectify what the council says are ‘defects’ and BAM says are not.

They include installing missing expansion joints in the Great Ouse viaduct between St Ives and Fenstanton, raising the level of part of the bridleway alongside the busway and improving the drainage capability of the park-and-ride car park in Meadow Lane, St Ives.

Whatever BAM fails to do will be carried out by the council’s back-up contractor, Jackson Civil Engineering. The work is expected to take three months.

Then the bus operators, Stagecoach and Whippet, need about a month for route-learning and driver training and familiarisation before the public is finally allowed to buy tickets to ride the super-smooth guideway.

In the meantime, the operators will have agreed detailed timetables with the county council and the traffic commissioner – as it did for the last planned opening of the northern section 18 months ago.

“It all depends on BAM now, taking a pragmatic approach and handing over the busway and being relieved of the liquidated damages,” the council said. “We have put forward a sensible way of drawing a line under the contract,” the spokesman added, continuing a long tradition of conducting its dispute with BAM in public.

The contractor, as usual, was not available for comment.