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Down by the link road, CHD's andrea Needham displays a copy of the redacted report. All has now been made clear.

Down by the link road, CHD’s Andrea Needham displays a copy of the redacted report. All has now been made clear (photo: CHD).

Behind the scenes at the link road

An internal review apparently released in error by East Sussex County Council shines an interesting light on hitherto unrevealed details of the Bexhill-Hastings Link Road (BHLR) construction project. Nick Terdre reports.

When Combe Haven Defenders (CHD), one of the leading opponents of the BHLR, made a Freedom of Information request for the Gateway Review 4 last year, they received a heavily redacted pdf copy posted on WhatDoTheyKnow, a website which publicises FoI applications and responses.

However, a second, html, version also posted on the website turned out to be free of redactions.

The report, an “evidence-based snapshot of the project’s status” carried out by an independent review team in March 2015, shows that confidence in the delivery of the road at that time was rated amber/red, which is defined as, “Successful delivery of the project/programme is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed.”

Major risks

The BHLR was given this rating as it faced major risks “in terms of being behind schedule, over on cost, with concerns about the quality of construction and a number of significant compensation events.”

“Compensation events” mean additional payments to the contractors, a joint venture between Hochtief and Taylor Woodrow. At the time these were expected to cost some £13 million. “The impact of delayed delivery and the scale of contractual cost overruns and current and future potential compensation events is substantial and management of these will be a priority issue for ESCC,” the report states.

Rising costs were another source of concern. “The forecast overall cost of the project has increased significantly,” the report says. “…it looks highly likely that ESCC will have to find additional funding for the project.”

Below-par performance

Meanwhile all was not going so well on the contractor side. “The track record of the contractor to date is that it has not met expectations,” the report says. “…there have been a significant number of concerns around the number of structures still to be finished, the quality of the work completed, the extent of remedial works required, the organisation and management of the JV [joint venture] and its sub-contractors, the accuracy of programming, and their ability to keep to time in the operational delivery of the programme.”

At the time there were differing views on when the road would be completed, ranging from September to December 2015. There were 26 planning conditions which the project had to meet – at least half needed to be satisfied before the road could be opened, the report says, adding “…it is quite possible that a number of these will have to be negotiated out, waived or reassigned at the point of road opening.” The road was finally opened in December 2015.

As predicted by the report, the cost of the road indeed increased, and has continued to do so. In January, as noted by CHD, ESCC raised its estimate to £125.6 million, with a “risk of further cost overruns.” Leaving aside the grant of £56.9 million provided by the Department for Transport, the county council’s share has more than doubled from £29.1 million to £68.7 million.

Vindicated

“The full version of this document proves two of the things that we have been saying all along: namely, that this project was badly managed and over budget,” said CHD member, Andrea Needham.

“ESCC has gone to huge lengths to keep this information from the public. East Sussex residents were sold this road on the basis that it would cost £29m. Instead, and with costs still increasing, it will end up costing at least £68m – money that could have been used to create sustainable local jobs in and around Hastings. It’s high time that Councillors were held responsible for this environmentally and financially disastrous white elephant project.”

 

This article was amended by Nick Terdre on 21 January to clarify the nature of the WhatDoTheyKnow website and the fact that the document was posted on it in response to the FoI request. Although ESCC are understood to be aware that the unredacted version has been made public, it was still available on the website at this date.

Posted 15:31 Wednesday, Jan 18, 2017 In: Home Ground

1 Comment

Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT

  1. Ms. doubtfire

    High time that councillors were held responsible for this project? That ‘aint going to happen anytime soon.
    They appear to be untouchable and accountable to none.
    Shame on them all.

    Comment by Ms. doubtfire — Wednesday, Jan 18, 2017 @ 19:18

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