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Ash Road Bridge Project: GBC Tests the Market as Costs Soar

Published on: 27 Jun, 2022
Updated on: 30 Jun, 2022

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

By David Reading

Guildford Borough Council is about to put the Ash road bridge project out to tender in order to “test the market”, acknowledging that the cost of the scheme has possibly doubled.

A GBC statement this week spoke of “significant volatility in the cost of construction materials and the associated labour market as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit, the war in Ukraine, inflation and increased energy prices.”

In January 2019, we reported that the cost of the bridge would be £20 million and completion would be sometime in 2021.

But the project was hit by significant delays and by April 2021 the total budget for the road bridge, approved at a meeting of the council, was £33.77 million.

In March 2022, councillors heard at a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee that the cost of the delayed scheme could be nearer £40 million.

Now, construction will be put out to tender as a “design and build” contract. Once tenders have been received, any further increase in the budget and funding for the bridge will need to be approved by the council.

GBC says the aim is to start on site next year and complete the construction by summer 2024.

Cllr John Rigg

Cllr John Rigg, Lead Councillor for Regeneration, said: “We have to make sure that we’re getting the best possible value for money for our residents for this important project at a really difficult time for the construction industry.

“It is a significant investment and despite securing valuable funding from Homes England’s housing infrastructure fund, as well as contributions from developers, these price rises and uncertainties mean that we must check that the council is achieving best value.”

He added: “Although this process will inevitably cause a delay, we remain committed to delivering this important piece of infrastructure for the borough. We are also continuing work to secure the approvals that are needed to build the road bridge.

“Good progress has been made on the project in recent months. The detailed design is nearing completion following further survey work and the key infrastructure legal agreements are being negotiated. We are working closely with Surrey County Council and Network Rail, both key parties we rely on to help to deliver this project.

“The road bridge, and proposed footbridge, are planned to provide badly needed infrastructure investment for the area, especially in supporting the arrival of new housing (in the Ash and Tongham area).

“The plan is also to make the area safer for cyclists and pedestrians, and less congested for drivers whilst also improving air quality. The crossing barrier is currently down for up to 25 minutes every hour and barrier downtime will increase in line with the expected increase in train services.

“This has a huge impact on local residents, especially as cars often queue for long periods with engines running alongside pedestrian walkways used by children walking to school.”

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test One Response to Ash Road Bridge Project: GBC Tests the Market as Costs Soar

  1. Bibhas Neogi Reply

    June 28, 2022 at 11:31 am

    Cllr Rigg said “The detailed design is nearing completion following further survey work and the key infrastructure legal agreements are being negotiated. We are working closely with Surrey County Council and Network Rail, both key parties we rely on to help to deliver this project.”

    If the detailed design has been done, what design is the design and build contractor going to do? Am I missing something here?

    Normally the design and build tenderers would be given the alignment that the council’s designer has worked up after due consideration of site constraints and geometric requirements. All legal matters would have been settled with adjoining property owners so that the tenderer would not have any uncertainty as to the site boundaries.

    I assume the tenderers would have the freedom then to explore the design for the bridge and the approaches. This would be a combination of earth embankments and a bridge over the railway or the whole length as a viaduct or reduced length of embankments together with a multi-span viaduct for the middle portion. The successful tenderer, that is, the contractor then will do the detailed design.

    Has the realisation dawned on the council now that their designer has not perhaps produced the best value design? If the council now goes ahead with a new design, a large part of the expenditure paid to their designer to date would be a waste of money, not dissimilar to the waste concerning the new Walnut Bridge in Guildford.

    Caution was raised in the letter of January 2021 https://guildford-dragon.com/at-long-last-planners-back-much-debated-bridge-at-ash-railway-station/#comments

    And further questions were raised as to the appropriateness of the design in my comments in https://guildford-dragon.com/ash-road-bridge-costs-could-double-council-still-has-more-money-to-find/#comments

    Shouldn’t councils pay more attention to comments and issues raised by those who actively contribute to the discussions with a view to getting the best outcome for the projects the councils undertake?

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