£8m spent on Kings Dyke level crossing project already as Cambridgeshire County Council decides next stage- 2022 new target date for opening
PUBLISHED: 16:31 08 August 2019 | UPDATED: 16:31 08 August 2019
Kings Dyke level crossing project has already cost Cambridgeshire County Council more than £8 million before construction has even begun.
The costs are revealed by Steve Cox, executive director of place and economy, in a report to the economy and environment committee that will meet in Whittlesey next week.
Of the £8 million spent so far £1.4m has gone on design, vegetation clearance, ecological works and badger monitoring and removal.
£4.1 million has been spent on legal fees including land acquisition, £900,000 on such things as utility diversions (mostly paid in advance) and £1.5 million in management and supervision fees including staff and consultant costs.
The estimated cost of completing the procurement process to retender the scheme is around £200k and this will be added to the total scheme cost.
"The latest price submission from Kier indicates that it is highly likely that the outcome of the competitive tender process will lead to the need for additional funding to make delivery affordable," says Mr Cox.
"Officers will therefore pursue funding opportunities in parallel with this procurement activity."
Mr Cox has drafted his most optimistic prose in his 4,500 word report to councillors by stating his belief that work could still begin on the bridge by the end of 2020 and be open within two years.
But getting to that stage is going to need every ounce of negotiating skill the council possesses as it looks to find a fresh contractor to replace Kier who had been primed until recently to carry out the work.
And as exclusively revealed by this newspaper a major issue to contend with - and which came up during the design stage - is the risk associated with it being built near to Star Pit.
Next week's committee will be asked to officially ditch Kier, reaffirm the current route remains the preferred option, and approve a new tender process.
Council officers will also be asked to begin to source extra funding for the bridge should it be needed.
Mr Cox explains that since March 2016 when planning permission was granted and when Kier was awarded a design contract it was expected they would provide a competitive tender for construction.
Last autumn Kier, who by then had completed 90 per cent of design work, said it would likely cost £15.8million, double what they thought before beginning design work.
"However, the council was given assurances that this was a robust price and that appropriate levels of risk allowance had also been incorporated," says Mr Cox.
"With a risk allowance for further council owned risks, land and scheme preparation costs added to the Kier target price, the revised total scheme cost was just under £30 million "
Mr Cox says despite this a new benefit cost ratio (BCR) suggested the scheme was still excellent value for money.
Based on this the council went ahead and did two things - bought up the land it needed, and went out and got funding from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPC).
Mr Cox says, however, that changes were spotlighted and principally related to increased ground improvement requirements and additional stabilisation work at the disused clay extraction pit Star Pit.
And other works, required of them by Network Rail and adjacent land owners, were also needed.
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"Since then it has become apparent that the design was not 90 per cent complete when the revised target price was given and indeed, the detailed design has only very recently been completed, a significant delay over the agreed programme with Kier," says Mr Cox.
"The council has continued to press for an outcome to the stage 1 design contract throughout this period of delay.
"In recent months Kier had indicated informally that a further increase in its target construction price quotation was likely."
When Kier delivered that target price of £26.2 million on July 17 this year it was £10 million higher than their previous target price quoted last October.
They also envisaged a January 2020 start and two year build.
Mr Cox says Kier's case was the cost of more earthworks and eliminating the risks around Star Pit.
However the county council took advice and was recommended that a new process should begin.
Kier had effectively blotted their copybook and instead the council, says Mr Cox, is being asked to put the contract back on the open market.
But that too is fraught with risk but he believes it is the only way the council can "truly demonstrate value for money and accountability to the public purse".
Councillors are being recommended not to consider the other route options put forward when the scheme was first discussed, partly because of the time delay and in one instance the need to relocate a signal box, opposed by Network Rail. A chilled storage business would also require relocation.
But Mr Cox says construction in close proximity of the Star Pit remains an issue but this has been incorporated into latest design risk.
And, crucially, he says by sticking with the current option it is likely it can be delivered four years ahead of either of the other two.
It will, he believes, be "the quickest and lowest risk option to address the severe problems that occur regularly at the level crossing".
If the committee agrees, the new contract will be based on the 4th edition of the New Engineering Contract (NEC), which is a series of contracts designed to manage a project, particularly a civil engineering project from start to finish.
"They are the most frequently used form of contract for UK highway infrastructure schemes and therefore a good level of experience exist within the industry," says Mr Cox.
"NEC contracts are seen as collaborative partnering contracts that aim to prevent an adversarial approach with resulting disputes and are endorsed by both government and industry bodies.
"They have a strong track-record for helping to deliver large-scale projects successfully. NEC contracts have been used for many high profile infrastructure schemes, such as Crossrail, London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games and Heathrow's Terminals 2 & 5C."
The current approved scheme budget totals £29.98 million, made up of £5.6 million from the county council and £24.4 million from CAPCA.
Of possible legal challenges he says there may be some from the landowners adjacent to the land already owned due to the agreement requiring the council to carry out some work.
Most notably, the land to the west which has the equestrian centre on it, the council is required to construct a 4th arm from the western roundabout to enable access to this land "to which we have severed by purchasing the land for the scheme".
Residents have the opportunity to discuss the current situation and challenge council leader Steve Count at a public forum on Monday August 12 from 3pm to 8pm with a team of officers at the Christian Church on Broad Street.