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Legal battle looms over overspend on busway.

A lengthy legal battle looks certain over a multimillion pound overspend on a guided busway that has been labelled a "cock-up" and is more than a year late.

The 25km concrete busway, the longest in the world, links Cambridge to St Ives north of the city and was due to open in February 2009. It has been beset by technical problems and still has no firm opening date.

The original cost of 116 million [pounds sterling] has climbed to as much as 160 million [pounds sterling]. The government will provide 92 million [pounds sterling] but transport secretary Lord Adonis said it had "no intention to contribute further".

Cambridgeshire County Council and contractor BAM Nuttall are wrangling over who should be responsible for the overspend. A report by the council identifies six construction defects on the northern part of the link, which is built partly on a disused railway line.

The report says: "It now seems inevitable that these issues will only be resolved through litigation." The issue is unlikely to be resolved until 2014-15, it adds.

Cambridgeshire County Council said: "It has been a frustrating project that has taken far longer than we had hoped. We are working with the contractor to get the defects rectified. But until that work is complete, we cannot give an opening date."


The council said it had yet to agree the repairs with BAM Nuttall, although it has been reported the busway could be open before the summer. Another report is expected this week from the council, discussing the outstanding construction issues further.

The issues include water leaks on to exposed steelwork at the Great Ouse viaduct east of St Ives, a maintenance track prone to flooding, missing calculations for subsidence, and a risk assessment for the use of rubber tyres as infill material on the track.

BAM Nuttall said that it was working with the council, but that contractual arrangements forbade it from commenting on the specifics of the outstanding work.

Mike Mason, South Cambridgeshire district councillor for Histon and Impington, said the busway project had been a "cock-up" from start to finish. "We could have laid a railway and had it running for less than has been paid out for the busway," he said.

The government has not been put off investing in other busway schemes. Last month it awarded 80 million [pounds sterling] for an 89 million [pounds sterling] seven-mile busway for Luton and Dunstable in Bedfordshire and has committed 20 million [pounds sterling] to a scheme between Fareham and Gosport in Hampshire.

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Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Apr 21, 2010
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