Council scuppers cycle/pedestrian underpass for Ely southern by pass after hearing of £1 million extra cost doesn’t represent value for money

Ely Bypass. River bridge visualisation from north with walkway.

Ely Bypass. River bridge visualisation from north with walkway. - Credit: Archant

A bid to include a cycle/pedestrian underpass within the Ely Southern bypass scheme has been abandoned after councillors were warned it would cost £1 million than the original budget.

Ely Bypass. An overhead view of how the bypass will come through the city

Ely Bypass. An overhead view of how the bypass will come through the city - Credit: Archant

The decision was made by the economy and environment committee of Cambridgeshire County Council.

Brian Stinton, team leader for major infrastructure and highways, said the by pass was originally conceived without an underpass but was put in during the planning process. He said it was felt the dual use footway/cycleway on the eastern side of the A142 is narrow and involves cyclists from Stuntney crossing the road.

This led to an underpass being considered particularly as the cycle route is included in the East Cambs transport strategy with “an aspiration” to extend it to Soham.

Mr Stinton reminded the committee of an earlier feasibility study that suggested a cost of £330,000 “and on this basis a non-material amendment to the planning consent was approved”.

However he said a “more robust but significantly higher” cost has now been developed during the stage one contract design.

“This indicates that the underpass will require more than an additional £1 million over the original estimate,” he said.

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Works would require significant de-watering and protection, the construction would prove more onerous, drainage would be an issue and the overall programme could be delayed if the scheme went ahead.

Mr Stinton also noted there were also long term maintenance costs to consider and to minimise the affect of poor ground condition combined with a high variable water table, heavily engineered and costly foundations would be needed.

His report noted that current cycling usage is low – around 45 per day- and even with improvements this is unlikely to grow significantly.

He said alternative provision for a cycle path has been considered with a “preliminary design” that could be delivered within the overall project budget.

Mr Stinton’s conclusion that “the low level of cyclists and the long-term maintenance implications” does not offer value for money was accepted.

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