Norwich road scheme hits £205m and could go higher

Councillors in Norfolk have voted to allocate a further £19.25m to cover the rising cost of the troubled Norwich Northern Distributor Road – including more than £1m for ‘unseasonal rainfall’ – but the current projected cost of £205m may still rise.

A meeting of the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee on Monday was told that the estimated cost of the new road has risen by 14.3% from the target cost of £178.95m, which had already risen from a 2013 estimate of £148m.

Committee papers disclose that the current forecast is that the overall project cost will be approximately £204.542m, which is £19.25m more than was previously budgeted.

The new estimate follows negotiations with contractor Balfour Beatty and includes additional charges for issues such as a delay in getting approval from Network Rail for the Rackheath Rail Bridge (£2.764m), over £5m for ‘a range of environmental, drainage, fencing, traffic management and safety issues’ and £1.195m for ‘unseasonal rainfall’.

However, councillors were warned that ‘as the project is still to be completed, there remain some risks that may still impact on the final cost’.

Cllr Dan Roper, a Liberal Democrat member of the committee, told Transport Network: ‘I think with this type of contract, it’s always inevitable that there will be some increase in cost. The concern for me is that the cost has increased to such an extent and councillors haven’t always had sight of the reasons for increases in cost until after the event.

‘We haven’t been presented with a clear chronology of the increases and why, and in particular we have an increase in the region of three million in between committee reports that were presented in June to the one that was presented yesterday.

Cllr Roper said this made it difficult for councillors in his position to monitor spending. He said: ‘The key question is about contract management and keeping close scrutiny of the rising costs.’

Following approval of an additional £6.8m in February, it was agreed yesterday to allocate £7.25m from the council’s 2017-18 Capital Programme, with the remaining £12m ‘met from internal borrowing’.

The first section of the new road opened earlier this month.

According to a council spokesman, Tom McCabe, director of community & environmental services, told the meeting that the extra cost was ‘a source of considerable frustration’ but that added that the council had scrutinised the additional construction costs and had reached agreement with Balfour Beatty, with the aim of having the A140 Cromer Road to the A1151 Wroxham Road open by Christmas, and the final section to Postwick open in March 2018.

Cllr Martin Wilby, chairman of the Environment, Development and Transport Committee, said the new road would still bring a very high return on investment. The section of the road already open was working well, and there was the prospect of another significant portion opening before Christmas.

‘We’ve had extra costs, but the road will still deliver huge benefits for Norfolk,’ he said.

A spokesperson for Balfour Beatty told Transport Network: ‘Balfour Beatty and Norfolk County Council have reached an agreement on the funding required to complete the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NNDR). The agreed figure will enable the effective delivery of the project which will bring multiple benefits to the local community and travelling public.

‘We are pleased to have already completed the Western section of the NNDR over four months early and look forward to continued collaboration with Norfolk County Council to deliver the new NNDR in early 2018.’

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