Council in race against time to secure extra funding in order to achieve planned 2020 implementation date.
Plans to replace the narrow-arched railway bridge on Gipsy Patch Lane with a much wider concrete structure have been thrown into turmoil following the revelation that the work could cost tens of millions of pounds more than was originally estimated.
The bridge replacement forms a major element of the Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension (CPME) scheme, which will provide a direct express bus link between Bristol Parkway railway station and The Mall bus station via the forthcoming new developments on the Filton Airfield site.
The cost of the CPME scheme, which includes highway works to create new bus lanes on some sections of the route, was originally estimated at £35m, to be funded through an allocation from the West of England’s Economic Development Fund (EDF), subject to approval of a full business case submission.
In 2015, South Gloucestershire Council chose to proceed with a wider design for the Gipsy Patch Lane railway bridge than had originally been envisaged, adding £5m to the overall CPME scheme cost, subject to an additional funding source being identified.
But with the council now ploughing ahead with its plan to implement the Gipsy Patch Lane bridge replacement during a 12-day closure of the railway over Easter 2020, it has been told by Network Rail that the costs for the work are likely to be “significantly higher” than originally estimated, bringing the overall CPME scheme price tag to between £60m and £75m (an increase of at least £20m).
With the Network Rail tendering process still under way, the reasons for the cost increase have been deemed commercially sensitive, so they have not been revealed to the public.
The council says it is working with Network Rail to lower the cost estimate, possibly by using a different bridge design and/or construction methodology.
However, time is running out for the council, as railway closures have long lead-in times and it needs to enter into an implementation agreement with Network Rail by February 2019 if the Easter 2020 installation date is to be achieved. This, in term, puts pressure on gaining full approval for the £35m of funding earmarked from the EDF (now administered by the West of England Combined Authority).
The implementation agreement with Network Rail will contain a provision which would permit the council to withdraw from the agreement (known as a ‘break clause’) should its bid for £35m of EDF funding (full approval) be unsuccessful.
The potential financial consequences of terminating the agreement were not detailed in the report published by the council and presented to a meeting of its Cabinet on Monday 3rd December 2018.
The council’s officers are currently exploring additional funding sources in order to be able to deliver the CPME scheme at the revised estimated cost.
Images: 1 Photomontage of the proposed replacement bridge, viewed from the east side. 2 Photo of the existing bridge, also viewed from the east side.
Above: Key milestone dates for the Cribbs Patchway MetroBus Extension (CPME) project. [Click image to enlarge]
* Weca: West of England Combined Authority
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This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of the Stoke Gifford Journal news magazine (on pages 12 & 13). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to over 5,000 homes in Stoke Gifford, Little Stoke and Harry Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.