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High Court battle over Cambridgeshire guided bus ‘defects’ set for summer

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A High Court battle to finally settle a legal dispute over the guided busway is expected this summer.

Cambridgeshire County Council has already shelled out £10m to date on guided busway litigation.

Tom Kelly, service director for finance and procurement, said: “The key thing is there is a scheduled court date for that coming up this summer and will come through and there will be a resolution.”

BAM Nuttall believe allegations of defects on the guided busway are “poorly and inadequately explained”.

Chief executive Stephen Moir said a previous dispute over the guided bus and the company that built it “ultimately ended with a constructive settlement” in favour of the council.

“But Tom is right, there has been a £10m spend to date.”

He said a date had been listed for the hearing “but as you might anticipate that is subject to fairly detailed legal process”.

A year ago, I revealed the county council has been forced to find an extra £1.9m to cover legal fees associated with its High Court battle with the company that built the 16-mile guided busway.

Cambridgeshire County Council said last year that the £1.9m would come from that set aside “for Covid pressures.

“Costs of litigation remain in line with expectations overall; this variance represents progress of the case and alongside a case management conference scheduled this financial year”.

The county council resolved an earlier £33m claim against Bam Nuttall in 2014 – three years after the Cambridge to St Ives busway opened.

It had been alleged Bam Nuttall was two years late in handing over the busway and the dispute arose over the final construction costs.

The project cost £150 million instead of the budgeted £116 million, and the contractor still lost money.

But in 2020 a fresh legal dispute emerged with the county council over alleged defects.

Court records show more details of the current claim.

The county council resolved an earlier £33m claim against Bam Nuttall in 2014 – three years after the Cambridge to St Ives busway opened.

BAM Nuttall said the council alleged the busway “in particular the guideway sections, have extensive defects requiring it to be almost entirely redesigned, dismantled and reconstructed at an assessed cost of around £87,000,000″.

The company says that notwithstanding the busway’s success, the council and its agents have “orchestrated a prolonged and repeated inquiry into it and its principal defect notifications and claims have changed and evolved over many years.”

BAM Nuttall believe allegations of defects are “poorly and inadequately explained”.

And it says the council has “substantially failed to plead its extensive allegations of defective design with any proper particularity”.

In 2002 a spokesperson for BAM Nuttall told the Cambridge Independent: “Since the busway opened in 2011 passenger numbers have grown 47 per cent. The busway is a fantastic piece of transport infrastructure which has performed consistently and reliably.

“In the six years since the council’s consultants alleged that the busway would need hundreds of interventions each month, this has not come to pass. The engineering evidence shows that it will not come to pass in the future.

“BAM has long sought to work with the council to address its concerns. We’ve assured the council, on many occasions, that anything wrong with the busway design, for which BAM Nuttall is responsible, we’ll put it right.

Tom Kelly, service director for finance and procurement, said: “The key thing is there is a scheduled court date for that coming up this summer and will come through and there will be a resolution.”

“It’s disappointing that the council is progressing the matter through litigation in the High Court.

“Our next step is to explore the details of Cambridgeshire County Council’s claim.

“BAM is confident that we’ll demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the court that the design of the busway is not fundamentally defective and doesn’t require the remedial works, which the council claims.”

 

 

 

 

 

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