Looming Bus Rapid Transit Fiasco in the UK? – From the Cambridge News: Millions at stake after latest busway wrangle

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The UK government have been very pro BRT and the Cambridge – St. Ives BRT was to have been a showcase for Bus Rapid Transit. A dedicated group called CAST. IRON, promoting a ‘rail‘ solution predicted many of the problems now facing the Cambridge BRT and questioned the financing of the scheme. Sounds familiar doesn’t it.

Too many people promoting BRT, have read little about the transportation mode and have made silly pronouncements, especially calling for BRT for ‘rapid transit’ in the Fraser Valley.

The Cambridge – St. Ives BRT/guided busway is built on the formation of an abandoned railway line and it is now clear that a tramtrain service could have been reinstated on the route for just a little more than the cost of the present BRT project, now seeing cost overruns. Sadly, the mandarins in the UK government want ‘rubber-on-asphalt’ transit solutions as they perceive them to be cheaper to build and operate (cheap and nasty) as ‘rail‘ solutions are so, so dated and highways so modern. The mandarins of course run the government and the UK Labour government seems unable or unwilling to implement successful European style light rail solutions, as billions of Pounds are being spent on road projects. Again, sounds familiar – Gateway anyone?

No doubt the St. Ives – Cambridge BRT will be soon be in operation and the true costs will be hidden to prevent embarrassment to politicos and bureaucrats alike. The real question that should be answered is: “Would not a tramtrain service built on the same route be cheaper to build and attract more ridership than BRT in the long term?”

I think the folks at CAST. IRON know the answer.

Millions at stake after latest busway wrangle

chris.elliott@cambridge-news.co.uk

A MAJOR court battle is looming over the cost of Cambridgeshire’s guided bus project after contractors claimed it could cost millions more to build than originally budgeted.

Cambridgeshire County Council and the builders have been at loggerheads over the guided bus contract for years.

The contract was awarded by the council to BAM Nuttall in 2006 after the Dutch-owned construction giant won the tendering process.

In all, the cost of building the busway was set at £116.2 million, with the Government agreeing to give a £92.5 million grant towards it.

The rest of the money is due to be paid out by developers who are building new houses in the county.

But a series of delays have led to its opening being postponed – and transport bosses have trimmed back some of the facilities planned to go alongside it.

The council says the Government should now contribute just over £87 million for the scheme – but BAM Nuttall is understood to have claimed more than £30 million on top of that, a figure that could rise to £50 million.

The council says it cannot confirm these figures, but Brian Smith, its executive director of environment services, said: “As we announced about a year ago, there is a gap between what BAM Nuttall believe they will spend on building the busway, and what the council will actually have to pay for the route.

“As we have said before, we have a robust contract and we are confident this passes most of the risk of any overspend to the contractor.

“I completely understand that local people feel they should be told exactly what BAM Nuttall believe they will spend building the scheme.

“But as we have always said, it forms part of the ongoing contractual discussions and at the present time we believe publishing this information would not be in the best interests of local taxpayers as it could affect the council’s position in the sensitive legal discussions ahead.”

Officials at Shire Hall admit the busway is over budget, but insist it is likely to be about £1.3 million. They say they have put “prudent measures” in place to tackle that.

A council statement said: “Prudent measures are in place to cover the potential final cost of building the busway.

“Current council forecasts show that the cost of the route, including land, could to be
£1.3 million over the original budget – but as costs can fluctuate up as well as down, planning has been carried out for a range of outcomes around this forecast.

“As with all major building projects the final cost of building the scheme will not be established until after the project is completed as some costs, like land, are finalised over a number of years.

“The first option the council will take if the busway does cost more than the original budget will be to seek to cover this using additional developer funding that we are currently negotiating, or Government transport funding.”

He added the council planned to set aside £1 million of Government transport funding each year from its capital programme “to cover potential additional busway costs”.

Roy Pegram, the council’s cabinet member for growth, infrastructure and strategic planning, said: “Although delays to completing the works should not mean busway construction will cost the council more, it does mean we must be prudent and plan for potential extra costs.

“As with all forecasts the costs will fluctuate up as well as down so planning and making provision for a range of outcomes around this point is important.”

The northern section of the busway, between St Ives and Cambridge, should have opened early this year, but a succession of delays meant the opening date was pushed back to November 29. That date was shelved as well, with reports that the busway will not now get up and running until early next year.

Work is also still to be completed on the southern end of the busway, stretching from the city centre beyond Addenbrooke’s Hospital.

A spokesman for BAM Nuttall said: “We can’t make any comment on the issue at this stage, or confirm or deny any of the figures.

“We are continuing very delicate negotiations with the council, and it would be unwise of us to discuss figures in public.”

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/cn_news_home/DisplayArticle.asp?ID=469082

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