Cambridgeshire County Council faces a criminal prosecution over its guided busway following three deaths.
It is also preparing for a separate legal battle over alleged construction defects that has already set it back at least £10m.
A council spokesperson confirmed tonight that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) “has indicated they plan to start legal proceedings against the county council, following their investigation”
The council said it continues to extend sincerest condolences to the families and friends of Jennifer Taylor, Stephen Moir, and Kathleen Pitts, all of whom have died in separate collisions on the guided bus way.
“Safety on the busway is and remains a priority for the county council and the operators that use the busway,” said the spokesperson.
“Since its opening in 2011, the guided busway has seen 33 million passenger journeys, the number of bus services has more than doubled, and during that time the council has worked with experts and made regular safety enhancements.
“There is a great deal of information to consider and for legal reasons it would not be appropriate to comment further in light of the decision taken by the HSE.”
Jennifer Taylor, Steve Moir, and Kathleen Pitts all died in collisions with buses between 2015 and 2021.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirmed it was prosecuting Cambridgeshire County Council. A hearing date has yet to be fixed.
A fourth incident was investigated by the HSE when a teenage cyclist was seriously injured in a collision with a bus in 2021.
Running parallel to the HSE prosecution, will be civil proceedings by the county council.
CambsNews has discovered through monitoring public records, that the county council has recorded £25m under the heading ‘guided bus legal costs’ in payment data it is obliged by law to reveal monthly.
The council has previously agreed it has spent at least £10m on litigation costs.
However, the council says the £25m shown “is not representative of the costs related to the busway dispute and our position hasn’t changed from this statement we released last year.
“As for a court date, we understand it will be this summer and our preparation continues.”
As revealed by CambsNews a High Court battle to finally settle a legal dispute over the guided busway is expected this summer.
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”.
Earlier this year 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”.
Last year 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.
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”.
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