COUNTY transport chiefs have claimed the deal for the Abbey Bridge ‘still represents value for money’ despite the cash-strapped council forking out an extra £3million to under-fire developers.
Worcestershire County Council agreed to pay Hochtief the extra sum despite the project taking four months longer than planned in a debacle which saw a number of businesses close and traffic misery in the heart of the town.
And the Observer can also exclusively reveal Worcestershire County Council won their initial case against Hochtief before an appeal tribunal found in favour of the developer.
A leaked briefing paper seen by this newspaper said: “Despite the County Council disagreeing with the Arbitrator’s findings, the legal advice was there were no substantive grounds for appeal on findings of fact.”
Although the developer has refused to comment publically, Hochtief are believed to have challenged the compensation claim from Worcestershire County Council by blaming the adverse weather conditions and high river levels during the construction of the new bridge.
That’s despite the original tender from the company claiming the road would only need to be closed for 48 days and Worcestershire County Council telling Vale residents the bridge would only be closed for 12 weeks.
Their apparent stance appears to contradict the claims made to the Observer in February 2014 where they insisted stormy weather and high water levels had not affected the work.
“Previous issues were encountered due to weather, during critical works, when a reliance on crane movements and river working effected programme delivery dates,” the statement read.
“However the current works aren’t affected in this manner, albeit works to complete the bridge wing walls could become impacted if the river levels were to remain abnormally high for the next few weeks.”
News of the claim has provoked anger among local residents and business owners who have lashed out at county council chiefs.
One correspondent who didn’t wish to be named said: “We now have a bridge where after any rain the carriageway and pavements flood because they were not installed correctly.
“We have a bridge where we were promised a cycle lane, but did not get one.
County Council cabinet member for Economy and Infrastructure, Coun Ken Pollock said: “The Abbey Bridge project was originally estimated to cost in the region of £10 million with a road closure of up to one year.
“The tender process was based upon a design and build approach in order to give bidding contractors the opportunity to use their experience to come up with innovative proposals to reduce both cost and closure period.
“The Hochtief bid stood out for its innovative design and construction methodology which offered significantly lower cost and a relatively short closure period.
“A dispute arose in relation to the construction method. Following the dispute process Worcestershire County Council has recently agreed to settle the account with Hochtief at £6.85m plus interest recognising the time period involved.
“Ultimately, the view of the County Council is that this project still represents good value for money, especially when compared with original estimates and tenders.
Hochtief declined to comment when contacted by the Observer
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