Mayor Palmer refuses to hand over extra cash for delayed Kings Dyke crossing and says he has 'no confidence' in county council management of the project

PUBLISHED: 11:10 14 June 2019 | UPDATED: 12:31 14 June 2019

Kings Dyke Whittlesey where a replacement bridge is again threatened by delays after costs rise. Mayor James Palmer has criticised the county council project management of the replacement scheme. Picture; ARCHANT

Kings Dyke Whittlesey where a replacement bridge is again threatened by delays after costs rise. Mayor James Palmer has criticised the county council project management of the replacement scheme. Picture; ARCHANT

Archant

Mayor James Palmer said today he has refused to hand over an additional £8.7m to underwrite further cost increases to the King's Dyke, Whittlesey, crossing project.

Kings Dyke: The route bypasses the existing road and is reached through roundabouts at both ends of the road. At the highest point the bridge would be 9.2m above the ground (the height of the traffic would be up to an additional 2.5 metres above bridge railings. Now it is subject to more delays. Picture: ARCHANTKings Dyke: The route bypasses the existing road and is reached through roundabouts at both ends of the road. At the highest point the bridge would be 9.2m above the ground (the height of the traffic would be up to an additional 2.5 metres above bridge railings. Now it is subject to more delays. Picture: ARCHANT

He said the latest price increases for the project "leaves me with no confidence in the management of the project as it stands.

"It is a preposterous cost escalation that no responsible mayor could agree to meet. "

He said the county council now needs a total re-evaluation of how the crossing will be delivered.

"We will use our best endeavours to support the council to do everything within their power to move their scheme forward," he said. "If they feel the Combined Authority is better placed to take on the scheme, they need to tell us."

Kings Dyke crossing remains difficult for commuters; now it a replacement/improvement could be delayed. Picture; ARCHANTKings Dyke crossing remains difficult for commuters; now it a replacement/improvement could be delayed. Picture; ARCHANT

"The evidence speaks for itself that the old traditional local authority way of delivering such schemes clearly needs to change."

The economic case for Kings Dyke is very strong, and it is a scheme that needs to be finished, he said.

"But equally the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority (CAPCA) is not here to act as a financial safety net every time another authority's infrastructure project runs over budget," said Mayor Palmer.

He said the further cost increases and delays to the Kings Dyke crossing project were "totally unacceptable"

Mayor Palmer said: "It is out of the question for the Combined Authority to hand over an additional £8.7 million to underwrite further cost increases which have emerged in Cambridgeshire County Council's Kings Dyke crossing project.

"In addition to the rise, the scheme is also expected to be delivered eight months later than expected."

He said the news was hugely frustrating and said the escalating cost and delay is a sign a complete rethink is needed on how the county council is managing the project.

He said the Combined Authority, as the local transport authority, will now ask the county council to revisit every aspect of the Kings Dyke scheme and come back with an acceptable plan for its completion.

Mayor Palmer said that the county council could alternatively ask CAPCA to take ownership of the project and inject fresh impetus, if they felt unable to come up with a more cost-effective, efficient solution.

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The Kings Dyke crossing project predates the formation of CAPCA and continues to be wholly managed by the county council.

Mayor Palmer said that last year council came to him to ask for up to £16.4 million to meet unexpected additional project costs.

The council had originally allocated £13.6 million to the scheme and the Combined Authority Board approved the funding in October 2018 to ensure the swift delivery of the project by winter 2020/21.

He said the council's further request for funding would leave the total cost of the crossing at almost £39 million, with completion now later in 2021.

"It is vital the council begins work urgently on deciding a way forward so that the crossing can be delivered at a reasonable cost and within a reasonable timeframe," he said.

The Kings Dyke project will speed up journeys for those living and travelling in the Peterborough to Whittlesey corridor by providing a new road bridge, avoiding the need for long waits at the railway crossing. A strong business case for the scheme was identified, with benefits to the local economy far outweighing the costs.

Mayor Palmer said:" When I was elected, it was made clear to me that the Combined Authority would have no involvement in delivering the Kings Dyke crossing scheme and so far the county council has been responsible for every aspect of the project.

"But when the Combined Authority stepped in last autumn to allocate funding to meet unexpected additional costs to help the county council bring their much-needed scheme to delivery, we agreed that it would be money well spent if it would finally get the Kings Dyke crossing finished in two years' time."

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesperson said: "The King's Dyke crossing project is currently still in its design phase.

"Cambridgeshire County Council and the Combined Authority have been working closely together to deliver this important project, which will remove the delays at the level crossing.

"It will also help to promote growth in the local area, both now and in the future

"Cambridgeshire County Council is considering recently received revised projections on costs and timings from its contractor Kier, before it takes a considered view on options available to it.

"The council will continue to do this in full consultation with the Combined Authority."

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