Fed up commuters face yet further delays to see the bypass at King’s Dyke Level Crossing ever come to fruition after Cambridgeshire County Council ditched the contractor for the project.
The long awaited scheme to end the frustrating delays at the crossing for motorists travelling between Peterborough and Whittlesey has seen its costs balloon from an original budget of £13.6 million to nearly £39 million - an increase labelled as “preposterous” by the county’s metro mayor James Palmer and “completely unacceptable” by MP Steve Barclay.
Now, Cambridgeshire County Council, which is in charge of the project, which has already suffered years of delays, has announced it has ended its contract with Kier after the contractor came back with an increased cost of £26.2 million to build a road and bridge over the Ely to Peterborough railway line.
The council will now start the process of finding a new contractor.
Council leader Cllr Steve Count said: “I am clear we should not now proceed with Kier as we cannot agree this final revised cost which has considerably increased. It is a shame that we have been forced to wait so long to receive a price that is so clearly out of line with earlier and even revised expectations.
“My view is the quickest way now to get this much needed crossing and bridge built would be to re-procure the work on the same route.
“I will now ask the Economy and Environment Committee to consider the options available and agree the best way to proceed, considering both time and spend.
“The King’s Dyke crossing project is vital for the people in Fenland and will remove the delays at the A605 level crossing.
“We will continue to work closely with the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and agree a way forward, which means this project will continue at pace.”
Combined authority leader Mr Palmer has previously been critical of the increased costs.
The mayoral body agreed a bail out of around £!6.4 million when the cost of the scheme originally escalated from £13.6 million to around £30 million, only for the project’s budget to then rise by another £8.7 million.
Mayor Palmer has ruled out releasing further funds from the combined authority, but did say it would be willing to take over control of the project if asked.
The bypass was originally due to be finished in late 2017/early 2018. The last noted timeframe for its completion was 2021, but that is now in doubt with the latest development.
Mayor Palmer said: “I continue to have significant concerns with regard to the way in which the King’s Dyke project has been handled. It’s clear to me that if this project is going to be delivered in a timely manner then the same old business as usual approach will not work.
“I’ve been informed that county council officials yesterday met with representatives from Kier to discuss the final costings for the project. Let me make clear that I was not at this meeting and the position outlined today by the county council in relation to the project is their position, not the position of the combined authority.
“I will need to meet with county council officials very soon to discuss in detail the meeting that took place with Kier and what steps should be taken in future to ensure that this important project is delivered.
“What’s happened to date with this project since the combined authority was asked to make a financial contribution has been extremely disappointing and regrettable.
“Clearly the decision to re-procure the work will lead to the delivery of the project being delayed and this will be a blow to all those who are impacted by this bottleneck on a daily basis and who live along the Peterborough-Whittlesey corridor. However. it’s vital that local authorities are prudent with taxpayers’ money and the escalations in the costs of the project are unacceptable.
“A fresh approach is needed to the way in which transport infrastructure is delivered in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough and I will not accept further delay and bungling on King’s Dyke.”