Funding agreed for long-awaited King’s Dyke bridge between Peterborough and Whittlesey

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After being “talked about for more than 40 years” the final go-ahead has been given to the King’s Dyke scheme – but the impact of the pandemic on construction is still unknown.

Cambridgeshire County Council documents show the new contract for the scheme is around £10 million lower than the £41.6 million it would have been if the council had continued with its previous contractor Kier.

But a further £2 million has been added to the county council’s budget for additional contingencies, including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The approved budget for the project is now £32 million.

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King's Dyke Level CrossingKing's Dyke Level Crossing
King's Dyke Level Crossing | jpress

The plans will see the level crossing connecting Whittlesey and Peterborough replaced by a bridge over the railway line.

The leader of the council, Cllr Steve Count, said a saving of around £10 million on the contract price “absolutely vindicates” the council’s decision to delay the project by a year to seek a new contractor.

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Funding arrangements for the scheme were agreed at the county council’s economy and environment committee and general purposes committee on Thursday, April 23.

The leader of Fenland District Council, Cllr Chris Boden, said: “I’m delighted to see that the best bidder in terms of price was also the best bidder in terms of quality, which is extremely useful.

“This scheme has been talked about for more than 40 years now. It’s massively overdue.”

He praised Cllr Count’s “brave decision to reject the Kier bid” and said it has “effectively saved the best part of £10 million”.

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Councillor for Whittlesey South, David Connor, said the scheme will have “huge benefits”.

Although Cllr Count took some credit for the move, he said it was a committee decision and that apologies are still owed to people for the delay.

Cllr Count said the saving “absolutely vindicates the stance that we took. And whilst the people of Cambridgeshire will be very thankful that we have saved them close to £10 million there are still apologies due to the people that use the King’s Dyke area, that for whatever reason this wasn’t able to be delivered those eight months ago. And they have had to put up with that further delay whilst we took £10 million out of the costings. But I think it was the right decision. I’m sorry for the further delay it has caused”.

The council re-tendered the contract after the design phase and before construction, breaking with Kier for the second half of the project.

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Cllr Count said the council could have saved “up to a year” in time on delivering the scheme without the dispute over price and subsequent re-tendering.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s assistant director for infrastructure and growth, Andy Preston, told the economy and environment committee that, owing to the rules around the tendering process, the county council has been unable to have a conversation with the new contractor about proceeding in light of the Covid-19 outbreak. He said those discussions will take place “immediately” now that the decision to award the contract has been taken.

“Only then will we really be able to quantify the full potential impact,” he said. “Hopefully that will be minimal and we will discuss that with the contractor. But at this stage we are recommending that we put together a separate Covid-19 contingency budget of £1.5 million.”

He also said the “ground conditions will remain a risk” which could increase the cost later on.

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“We will retain the ultimate risk of the ground conditions,” he added.

“So should the contractor uncover something during construction that was unforeseen then that will remain our risk,” he said, adding “this risk has been very, very closely managed and is reduced to an acceptable level at this point because of the amount of work that was already completed”.

Mr Preston also said lessons will be learned by the council from the process, but their value may be limited on future transport schemes.

“Testing the market has delivered a significant saving,/” he said. “The Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority are now the transport authority, so the likelihood of a procurement of this size again in the future from the county council’s perspective is likely to be slim. But our procurement strategies are certainly being reviewed and looked at based on the lessons we have learned from this project.”

Construction is due to commence by December 2020, with completion expected by December 2022.

Ben Hatton, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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