Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Cambridgeshire Guided Busway: 2 Years Late and £65M over budget

Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats have welcomed news that the Guided Busway contract has finally been completed and the handover of the project has occurred, exactly two years late and £65M over budget.

The project was initially supposed to open in April 2009, but is now expected to open in late Summer or Autumn of 2011 -- well over two years late -- despite strident promises from the Conservatives that the project would be operational earlier.

The contract was initially budgeted to come in at £116M in total, but the soaring overspend has risen to £181M -- £65M over the budgeted cost. The Conservative-run county council has been paying for this overspend with borrowed money, which it will have to claw back in court.

Three successive Conservative leaders (Shona Johnstone, Keith Walters and Jill Tuck) promised the people of Cambridgeshire not to spend a penny of local taxpayers money on the scheme, which Lib Dem MP Julian Huppert branded a "white elephant"; but the Conservatives have already taken over £5M out of the local transport plan to pay for the soaring costs of the project, and set aside millions more to cover lawyers' fees for fighting the court case.

In the worst case scenario, if the Conservatives lose the court case the local taxpayer would be liable for £65M.

Lib Dem transport spokesman Kilian Bourke said: "Although it is two years late and £65M over budget, I think all of Cambridgeshire will welcome the news that the project is moving forward. People are sick and tired of this saga and want to see the busway up and running as soon as possible. I hope the Conservatives will make this happen as soon as possible.

"At the same time, the real headache is just beginning. With £65M of local taxpayers money at stake in the court case with BAM Nuttall we have to hope the Conservatives are right and they win the court case hands down. If not local people will be footing the bill for this project for decades."

Labour and Conservative county councillors originally voted for the scheme; every single Liberal Democrat voted against it.