Search

Soaring costs of Suffolk highways projects questioned after second major scheme axed

PUBLISHED: 08:37 01 April 2019 | UPDATED: 09:49 01 April 2019

An aerial view of the Upper Orwell Crossings, which was scrapped after costs soared by around £43million. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

An aerial view of the Upper Orwell Crossings, which was scrapped after costs soared by around £43million. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Archant

Questions are being raised over the escalating cost of three highways projects in Suffolk.

Council leader Matthew Hicks said the council had a good track record with its projects, with the Upper Orwell Crossings scheme a 'blip'. Picture: GREGG BROWNCouncil leader Matthew Hicks said the council had a good track record with its projects, with the Upper Orwell Crossings scheme a 'blip'. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The matter has been raised after Suffolk County Council confirmed costs to build three bridges over the River Orwell - known as the Upper Orwell Crossings - spiralled from £100million to £143m.

Plans for a Sudbury bypass - initially estimated at £40m in 2017 - increased to £50-£70m, according to a report for Suffolk County Council by its consultants WSP.

Both the schemes for the Upper Orwell Crossings and the Sudbury bypass are no longer going ahead due to the rising cost.

A third scheme for the completed Bury St Edmunds Eastern Relief Road cost £4.8m more than its original estimated cost of £15m.

A parliamentary petition calling for a long-awaited Sudbury bypass was launched in 2017. Picture: GREGG BROWNA parliamentary petition calling for a long-awaited Sudbury bypass was launched in 2017. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Engineering consultants WSP were appointed by Suffolk County Council to work on all three schemes and now questions are being asked as to why costs rose so much.

During January’s cabinet meeting, councillor Andrew Stringer said: “There is becoming an unhealthy trend that we underestimate the cost of a major highways project and after the consultation that very obvious thing should have been obvious from the start.”

He afterwards added that it was “a worrying trend of schemes starting with unrealistic initial budgets.”

But WSP has defended its work. Graham Higgins, technical director of transport planning, said: “WSP has a strong track record in transport planning and cost estimation, and we stand by our work for Suffolk County Council.

Green councillor Andrew Stringer said costs should have been eivident from the start. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILGreen councillor Andrew Stringer said costs should have been eivident from the start. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

“As projects develop from the feasibility stage, and acquire more detail, it is not uncommon for cost estimates to evolve.

“Our estimates in the case of the Upper Orwell Crossings were confirmed as correct by an independent third party.

“Our work on the Sudbury bypass involved assessing a range of options and recommended that the most feasible option was to improve existing infrastructure.

“The Bury St Edmunds Eastern Relief Road increased in scope.”

Councillor Matthew Hicks, Conservative leader of Suffolk County Council, said: “I think it would be really sad if a county council didn’t have ambition to deliver projects. We have a really good track record of delivery.

“When you look at Suffolk County Council this is a blip in the system, we have a good track record of delivery.”

He added: “I don’t feel anything has not been carried out properly.”

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Ipswich Star

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists