Lessons must be learned over Abbey Bridge saga claims Labour leader - The Evesham Observer

Lessons must be learned over Abbey Bridge saga claims Labour leader

Evesham Editorial 2nd Feb, 2018   0

COUNTY chiefs won their initial dispute over the Abbey Bridge with contractors Hochtief before the decision was overturned on appeal, a leaked council briefing reveals.

The Observer has seen the final account statement handed to councillors following the verdict which shines a light on the construction process as well as the disagreement which led both sides to a tribunal.

Worcestershire County Council chiefs reveal a key element of Hochtief’s design was how it dealt with minimising disruption to services running under the bridge and viaduct, notably, the BT fibre and telecoms cables.

Hochtief’s proposal was re-fix them within the new structure but needed BT’s agreement which was not gained until later in the works when the cables were exposed and their condition could be assessed.

“A dispute arose as to whether BT expressly objected to their cables being slewed or not but Hochtief had little choice but to redesign the bridge because, being wider than the original structure, the cables could not stretch to the distance of the longer curve on the Western side of the structure,” the report reads.

“Whilst the viaduct works progressed steadily, this event caused a major delay to the commencement of the new bridge deck which pushed its completion from early December 2012 to early March 2013.”

The first legal case found in Worcestershire County Council’s favour but Hochtief referred the decision to arbitration in accordance with the contract between the two parties which then trumped the earlier verdict.

“Despite the County Council disagreeing with the arbitrator’s findings, the legal advice was that there were no substantive grounds for appeal on findings of fact. Unlike court proceedings which take place in the public domain, arbitration proceedings are private in order to respect the confidential, commercial information of one or all of the parties,” the report added.

“The County Council, taking into account the legal advice it had received and the legal costs and risks involved in going further, decided to settle the final account.”

The saga has been criticised by the county’s Labour leader Coun Peter McDonald who blasted council chiefs for ‘not doing their homework’.

“We have sacked all our experienced workers or contracted them out to the private sector, nobody is checking the work of contractors and we have been caught with a massive bill.

“The county council has lost its expertise and experience with the building of bridges, they should have come to an agreement with BT over the realignment of the fibre and Telecomms cables before entering into a contract. This should have been obvious.

“No action or investigation is taking place, nobody is being held accountable for this massive blunder. Labour will ensure the lessons will be learnt. They can’t even cut correctly without making costly mistakes.

“I have asked the chairman of the main scrutiny committee to accept as an emergency item on their next agenda the handling of the contract for Abbey Bridge.

“Members of the council and the public deserve to hear the truth and to be told the facts. Their failings need to be exposed and their incompetence needs to be corrected.

“We simply can’t afford to make such costly mistakes, we must make the changes to avoid such failures from ever happening again.”



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