January 23, 2015 by combehavendefenders
We don’t like to say we told them so – but, well, we told them so. The cost of the link road has risen yet again, this time by £2.9m, bringing the new total to £116.4m. When we talked to project manager Bob Pape only last month he told us that he was ‘bullish’ that the costs would not rise any further. If you can hear munching sounds as you read this, that’s Bob eating his words.
The cost of the link road has gone up and down over the years. It’s quite instructive to look at the ever-changing cost, and the willingness of East Sussex County Council to pick up the bill, however high it is.
December 2012: absolutely not a penny more than £18m
Just four years ago, in its ‘expression of interest’ to the Department for Transport (essentially a bid for funds), the county council declared that,
‘Given current funding pressures, ESCC cannot increase its contribution beyond the current level of commitment – £15m spent to date and the additional £3m in the programme for the period 2012 – 2015’.
Yes, you read that correctly: there was no more than £18m available for the road to nowhere. At that time, the total cost of the scheme was estimated at £100m, and ESCC were rather optimistically hoping that the Department for Transport might chip in £60-£70m. The rest would be generated by a ‘wind turbine scheme’ somewhere near Upper Wilting farm. What happened to that is anybody’s guess.
ESCC’s declaration that it could only contribute £18m was forgotten as soon as George Osborne threw £56m at the road in early 2012. Suddenly, all bets were off and the county council’s wallet was wide open. The cost of the scheme had changed again: now it had gone down to £92m, so ESCC’s contribution was to be £35m.
That wasn’t the end of it, though. By July 2013, the estimated cost had gone up again, this time to £100m. But that still wasn’t enough and Rupert Clubb, ESCC’s director of economy, transport and environment, was back with his begging bowl, requesting another £13m. The total thus came to £113m, which as Campaign for Better Transport pointed out, pushed the road very firmly into the ‘low’ value for money category.
Watch out for slippage
(As an aside: future users of the road should note that one reason for the increasing cost was the need to stabilise the sides of the railway cutting in Bexhill. Jacobs, the engineering contractor, put on record ‘their significant concerns about the long term stability of the slopes in this cutting and what they believe to be a significant risk to users of the new road.‘)
Contingency all gone, let’s have another £3m
And now, Bob Pape’s bullishness notwithstanding, the costs have gone up again. The contingency fund of £4.7m has all gone, and now we’re being asked (or rather, not being asked) for a further £2.9m, bringing the new total to £116.4m. Austerity: isn’t it great?
And more to come?
The same report explains that the latest increase in costs is due to the need for more archaeological investigations, as well as – of course – the weather. It goes on to warn that,
‘…there remains a risk of further increases in the forecast outturn in the event of, for example, poor weather conditions or other risks that may occur.’
In other words, watch this space for the next increase.