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Updated: Ash Road Bridge Costs Could Double – Council Still Has More Money to Find

Published on: 3 Mar, 2022
Updated on: 4 Mar, 2022

The level crossing at Ash which is to be replaced by a road bridge to reduce delays for drivers.

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A delayed scheme to close the Ash level crossing and build a road bridge over the railway line could now cost £40 million, nearly double the original estimates.

See added Network Rail statement below

Councillors heard at a meeting of Guildford Borough Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday (March 1) that works to replace the “dangerous” level crossing with a bridge were now likely to cost more because of delays approving the plans.

Cllr Fiona White

Cllr Fiona White (Liberal Democrat, Westborough) asked for an update on plans to replace the level crossing because of “huge amounts of development” taking place in the area and traffic levels increasing after the coronavirus pandemic, saying “the holdups are getting bad again”.

Land to the south and east of Ash and Tongham was allocated for a total of 1,750 homes in the council’s 2019 Local Plan.

Cllr John Rigg (R4GV, Holy Trinity), lead councillor for Regeneration and Major Projects said one of the first things he did when he took over the major projects portfolio was to look at costs, and that he found the cost of the bridge was “no longer £20 million, it was likely to be closer to £40 million.”

Cllr John Rigg

Asked by The Dragon, after the council meeting, how the shortfall had been discovered, Cllr Rigg said: “I only discovered this when I asked to attend a project team meeting and saw their figures presented.

“I was extreme concerned. Homes England, who had agreed a £10 million loan towards the works, were approached and advised of the cost escalation . We asked that they review their grant and thankfully they were incredibly supportive.”

He added: “After an awful lot of negotiations, we got a grant of £23.7 million. There’s still a lot for us to find.”

He said that delays approving the bridge on the Network Rail side were now increasing the cost further of the project.

Cllr Rigg said a “shortage of resources” and a recent meeting cancelled because of train cancellations during storms were causing delays but that council officers were “pressing them hard”.

He asked: “How long will Network Rail take to approve a bridge, a simple straightforward bridge, designed by our expert consultants? How long is a piece of string? It’s very disappointing.”

Earlier in the meeting he had said: “We’re delivering infrastructure for Surrey County Council, and to remove a dangerous level crossing for Network Rail.

“Neither are contributing to the cost. Network Rail, through delays in approving our bridge design, are causing serious concerns and cost price inflation.”

Tonight he added: “The key thing is this bridge is needed and will help to reduce pollution and congestion. Ash needs this bridge.”

According to an earlier council timeline, works on the bridge should have already started in the winter 2021/22, with a projected opening of spring/summer 2023.

No representative from Network Rail was present at the council meeting but a spokesperson later said: “Closing a level crossing is not a straightforward process and it always involves a lot of work for both ourselves and the local authorities.

“We are very pleased to be working with Guildford Borough Council to close this level crossing, which has a history of misuse by pedestrians. The proposed footbridge will also make it easier for passengers at Ash to change between services on the Alton and North Downs lines.”

 

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test 5 Responses to Updated: Ash Road Bridge Costs Could Double – Council Still Has More Money to Find

  1. Lisa Wright Reply

    March 3, 2022 at 7:49 pm

    I wonder whether the original projected cost was accurate and if not, why not? Costs don’t double in just a few years.

  2. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 3, 2022 at 9:27 pm

    “…a simple straightforward bridge, designed by our expert consultants,” said John Rigg. In my view, an expert consultant would not have designed the approaches of the bridge here as embankments that require importing massive volumes of earth through the unsuitable surrounding road network.

    I did query the possibility of a shorter bridge by relocating the southern roundabout to facilitate two 90 degree turns to achieve a near 180-degree turn of the road rather than the chosen semi-circular alignment.

    My comments are in https://guildford-dragon.com/2021/01/26/letter-moving-a-roundabout-could-solve-problems-of-ash-level-crossing-project/

    It has not been revealed why the cost is likely to double. Elsewhere I did also comment about a possible saving of £5 million or more for the alternative 3-span solution with roads under the bridge to connect the two sides and a pedestrian route with a cycleway to the railway station.

    I believe it is no fault of Guildford Borough Council as it is not equipped with the necessary technical expertise to assess the quality of design by consultants. Surrey County Council who is the Highway Authority should have dealt with it.

  3. Christian holmes Reply

    March 3, 2022 at 10:00 pm

    If a bridge is needed due to increased congestion from increased housing – why are the developers not funding this in its entirety, would be my question. If the costs escalate let them take the risk.

    Second, if the costs have doubled why not go out to tender again? Or run a reverse auction.

  4. I Wells Reply

    March 5, 2022 at 8:12 am

    I agree with the last two comments £40 million is ridiculous for a bridge.

    Sounds like they have the wrong location.

    I also agree the developers should foot the bill.

  5. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    March 6, 2022 at 9:16 pm

    It is my view that the road alignment and the use of earth embankment approaches to the bridge are both questionable.

    Has the design been scrutinised by an independent consultant? The cost is now quite high. If this were a Department for Transport (DfT) project, the bridge would be a Category 3 bridge because its cost is above £5 million (an old figure which may be more now).

    County Councils normally follow the DfT procedures. The road alignment is designed to suit the geometry with existing constraints of the site. The bridge design process should include a document that defines the bridge required.

    Both road and bridge designs follow the national codes and DfT guidance documents. The bridge “Design Document in Principle” includes options examined, cost and whole-life costs for them and the reasons for selecting the preferred option.

    A Category 3 design is normally progressed by the designer in consultation with the independent assessor/checker so as to reduce any abortive work that might not be acceptable later if left alone to proceed.

    I wonder whether Guildford Borough Council has any such procedures in place? It is normally Surrey County Council as the Highway Authority that deals with roads and structures for the local road network.

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