The guided busway contractor BAM Nuttall speaks out
BAM Nuttall chief executive Stephen Fox says there's nothing to stop the guided buses running
The guided busway's contractors have finally broken their silence on its delays and defects.
In a BBC Cambridgeshire exclusive, BAM Nuttall's Stephen Fox said the busway could have been in use from 2009.
"The six alleged defects... we don't believe, in our eyes, have actually stopped the busway being open," the chief executive insisted.
Both Cambridgeshire County Council and BAM Nuttall admit court action is now likely.
Mr Fox was interviewed by Jozef Hall for BBC Cambridgeshire.
He started by explaining that the terms of BAM Nuttall's contract with Cambridgeshire County Council precluded him from doing interviews without permission from the council, which he now had.
The council has highlighted six defects which it says must be resolved before the busway can open.
Mr Fox does not accept they are defects: "I say alleged [defects] because the council has not clearly demonstrated that they are defects.
Contractors claim busway could have been in use since 2009
"There's nothing in them that in any way affects the performance of the busway, or the safety of the busway, and the ability of the busway operators to use it."
In addition BAM Nuttall said the delays and rising costs were due to contract issues not engineering problems, and claimed that the county council owes it money.
Cambridgeshire County Council has been saying for some time that the contractor owes it around £40m.
Mr Fox said council officials have not revealed the nature of the six main defects to the company.
"We said, 'If you tell us what to do we'll see if we can even do it for you', and the county council won't even tell us what they think the solution is," he explained.
One defect highlighted by the county council is flooding at the St Ives Park and Ride, but Mr Fox said: "It is built to the approved design and the county has now decided it wants something different."
The council had raised concerns about the design of rainwater drainage on the Great Ouse Viaduct.
"The solution we've got really just allows the water to freely drain away," said Mr Fox. "Once the guttering is in place [the water] doesn't go anywhere near the steel work."
"Remember that all the design has been undertaken by two of not just the UK's but the world's leading designers, in a joint venture between Parsons Brinckerhoff and Arup. The designs have been signed off."
BAM NUTTALL'S CASE
Buses could have been running since 2009
BAM Nuttall does not accept the council's 'defect' list
Council will not explain what it wants fixed
Delays due to contract issues not engineering problems
Council owes BAM Nuttall money
He ended by saying: "If you wound the clock back four years, we would have never have entered into it [the contract] if we'd have thought it would go like this, even though we've constructed it well.
"It's not in our interest to enter into something we know that's going to go wrong."
Graham Hughes, director of growth and infrastructure at Cambridgeshire County Council refuted many of Stephen Fox's claims.
He said it was standard practice for the council to expect its contractors to ask for permission before doing interviews.
"We haven't gagged them. They haven't actually asked to speak to the media before," he explained.
He went on to say that the arguments the council had been having with BAM Nuttall about the defects over the past year were "to be frank, quite ridiculous".
The council says it will not take over the busway until defects have been sorted
Mr Hughes said that the defects were assessed by an independent project manager.
"The contract is 100% crystal clear that if that project manager indentifies that what has been built on the ground is not in accordance with the contract he notifies that item as a defect," he explained.
"If a project manager notifies a defect it is a defect under the contract."
Mr Hughes said the council's view was the guided bus overspend was not its fault, but BAM Nuttall's.
"If we'd really have thought it would overspend by this amount of money, would we have entered into it [the contract]?" He said.
"I think the answer must clearly be, no we wouldn't."
Have your say
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• To James Wallis, yes I did lead this project in the middle for a period of 1 year. I inherited the project and then left it when I lost my seat. I am not an engineer, but while leading the project I was assured that the micro cracks that had appeared when I was there, were part of the design. There is thousands and thousands of tonnes of steel running through the concrete, to ensure it is strong enough. I really don't think that is the major concern right now, although you know as much as I do these days. Matt Bradney, Cottenham
• Read between the lines. This is the first Time the Contractor has been allowed to comment in the press. The Government needs to cut spending . A good start would be to get public servants who are competent to procure such large schemes and manage them such that the Private organisations can get on with it efficiently. Have a look at the statistics; private organisations know how to design, manage & control spending otherwise they would be out of business. A Rogers, Peterborough
• This is a typical; example of an obsessed council wanting to stamp its mark on the community. There was considerably more people who supported the reopening of the rail line which could have been incorporated into the current plan to have rail services running from Oxford to Cambridge. It would have given better access to Stansted Airport and Docklands. Edingburgh's busway is being replaced with trams, doesn't that tell you something. There would have been less disruption and considerably less cost. Tim, Herts
• The existing bus service is quick, quite expensive and seems to run to a random schedule. But it does take me to Bridge St in Cambridge - which is ideal. The misguided bus will be expensive, slower and ends up in the Science park (I think. I fear that the new bus link will add significantly to the daily congestion in St Ives. So the traffic on the A14 will be reduced - but only because I for one will be stuck in St Ives trying to get past the roundabouts on the ring road. John Sinclair, St Ives
• I have checked the busway from St Ives towards Cambridge. From the P&R at St Ives for about 1 mile every concrete section is cracked. This can only be due to the concrete being unsupported by the base so each section is in tension about the centre. This will lead to a seesaw motion along the busway. Is this problem due to defective concrete, defective foundations or bad design? This was Councillor Matt Bradney's project. Will he explain where the responsibility lies? If it is a complete failure we do at least have a very fine long distance foot path and cycleway through great scenery. James Wallis
• Whatever the outcome of this sorry state of affairs, the fact remains that few people in the county wanted this stupid busway and the County Council would do well to learn to listen to the reasoned arguments of the people who voted them in. In a city which is meant to lead the world how did we get into such a mess? Daniel Hipkin, Ely
• I have walked most of the northern section and almost all of the concrete beams appear to have cracks in the guiding kerb wall. Some of these cracks also seem to extend across the running surface. The discoloration around the cracks suggests there may be some water penetration. Some of the bigger cracks appear to have been filled with an epoxy resin or similar.
Maybe this is expected and will not impact operation when (or if?) the busway eventually opens. It will be interesting to see the results after a few hard winters of freezing and thawing... John Connett, Cambridge
• If Bam Nuttall are so bad at building guided busways why did Luton council award them the contract to build another one there? Cambridgeshire County Council don't have a leg to stand on and should be ashamed of their unprofessional approach to this dispute. David Bloye, Diss, Norfolk
• Perhaps none of this would have happened if the railway had been retained and reopened? Ivan Tan, London
• It has been alleged by residents at Dry Drayton that some of the northern section concrete tracks are cracking up, if this is correct what effect will it have on the safety of the buses using the Busway? Ray Charter, St Ives