Guided bus High Court battle costs county council £3.2m in a year

BAM Nuttall believe allegations of defects are "poorly and inadequately explained". 

BAM Nuttall believe allegations of defects are "poorly and inadequately explained". - Credit: Archant

The county council has been forced to find an extra £1.9m to cover legal fees associated with its High Court battle with the company that built the 16-mile guided busway.  

Cambridgeshire County Council says the money will come from that set aside “for Covid pressures”. 

The 146 per cent increase in the original £1.3m budget will take lawyers’ costs in just one year to £3.2m. 

Councillors were told by finance chiefs that “it is proposed that this pressure is covered by the funding set aside for Covid pressures which are no longer required.  

“Costs of litigation remain in line with expectations overall; this variance represents progress of the case and alongside a case management conference scheduled this financial year”. 

The county council resolved an earlier £33m claim against Bam Nuttall in 2014 – three years after the Cambridge to St Ives busway opened. 

It had been alleged Bam Nuttall was two years late in handing over the busway and the dispute arose the final construction costs. 

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The project cost £150 million instead of the budgeted £116 million, and the contractor still lost money.   

But in 2020 a fresh legal dispute emerged with the county council over alleged defects. 

Newly released court records show more details of the current claim.  

BAM Nuttall said the council alleged the busway "in particular the guideway sections, have extensive defects requiring it to be almost entirely redesigned, dismantled and reconstructed at an assessed cost of around £87,000,000". 

The company says that notwithstanding the busway’s success, the council and its agents have “orchestrated a prolonged and repeated inquiry into it and its principal defect notifications and claims have changed and evolved over many years." 

BAM Nuttall believe allegations of defects are "poorly and inadequately explained". 

And it says the council has “substantially failed to plead its extensive allegations of defective design with any proper particularity". 

It is not known when the case will come to court.