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Traders call for higher penalty
7:02am Thursday 23rd January 2014 in News
EVESHAM business owners are asking why the county council has not done more to protect the town after meeting with the managing director of the company building the new bridge.
Ali Aldkish, who owns Avonside Motors in Abbey Road with his wife Vanessa, has called for Worcestershire County Council to explain why businesses in the town have not been better supported during the disastrous delays on the Abbey Bridge works.
The call from the couple comes after they met with John Jackson, the managing director of Hochtief, the company contracted to carry out the replacement of the bridge.
But despite the delay to the work, meaning the bridge will be closed for more than six months and not the original 10 weeks as planned, Mr Aldkish says he does not blame Hochtief.
He said: "We met with John Jackson and the site manager. The chief put his hands up and said we were over optimistic about the 10 weeks.
"They faced the problem and paid the penalty."
And this is where Mr Aldkish believes Worcestershire County Council are to blame.
"The main problem is who drafted the contract and put a small penalty in," he said. "I don't blame Hochtief. If the penalty was higher they would've used all their workforce."
The council is not revealing what the penalty charges are to Hochtief for the delay. But it says the priority has been getting the bridge open.
Councillor John Smith, cabinet member for highways, said: "Yes, there are liquidated damages included in the contract, financial penalties in non-legal language, and the county council will be working to ensure Hochtief meet all of its contractual obligations in full.
"Exact details of the liquidated damages are commercially sensitive and, as such, can’t be discussed publicly. Priority at this stage is being focused on getting the link open as early as is possible.
"The contract with Hochtief is a fixed price design and build contract. The contractor, who takes all final decisions on the work programme, is responsible for staffing levels and associated costs."
Now after months of uncertainty Mr Aldkish said the best thing to come from the meeting was the assurance the bridge would open by the end of March.
"He (John Jackson) said it will be before March 31. I have to believe him. We can now plan and we know where we stand. Evesham will survive this but let's learn from this."