Metro mayor James Palmer has been challenged on the progress and soaring cost of the long-awaited King’s Dyke level crossing bypass in Whittlesey.
The King’s Dyke project was top of the agenda for Mayor Palmer at last week’s Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority board meeting.
At the meeting, board member Cllr Lewis Herbert asked the mayor: “Are we ever going to see this crossing completed, because the people using it have lost all patience with those managing the project.”
Cllr Herbert’s question came in the wake of previous comments from Mayor Palmer who said he had lost confidence in Cambridgeshire County Council’s ability to deliver the scheme.
The mayor ruled out releasing further funding to the county council after the budget for the project rose by another £8.7 million to more than £38 million, nearly three times the original budget of £13.6 million.
The scheme to build a new road and bridge over the railway line to end delays for motorists travelling between Peterborough and Whittlesey was originally due to be finished in late 2017/early 2018 but may now not open until 2021 after the latest setback.
The combined authority has already promised around £16 million of funding to support the project’s completion.
Mayor Palmer said: “If Cambridgeshire County Council feels the combined authority is better placed to take on this scheme they need to tell us immediately. But we’re not just here for them as a financial safety net when their incredibly poor management of this project gets them into trouble. Either let the combined authority take over or get the project completed within budget, but clearly things need to change.”
He added: “The King’s Dyke project has exceeded its forecast 2018/19 funding by at least £620,000. Funding for this project was capped, so any additional funds to cover an overspend will have to be deducted from the 2019/20 allocation. Therefore, the revised capped budget for 2019/20 will be £5.38 million, with an additional £6 million in 2020/21, and a further £5.8 million in 2021/22.”
When news of the latest setback emerged on June 14, North East Cambridgeshire MP Steve Barclay described it as “completely unacceptable” and said there were “serious questions for the Highways Department at Cambridgeshire County Council to answer.”
The council said it was “considering recently received revised projections on costs and timings from its contractor Kier before it takes a considered view on options available to it”.