Call for enquiry into handling of bridge fiasco

First published in News

A CALL for a public enquiry into how Worcestershire County Council has dealt with the project to replace Evesham Abbey Bridge has been made by a leading business voice in the town.

Tony Rowland, chairman of the Vale of Evesham Commerce and Tourism Association, said he thinks the whole project "was very badly flawed before it event started" as he blasted the procurement process and the way the project was carried out.

The project, being carried out by contractors Hochtief on behalf of the council began last March and was set to include a ten week closure and a completion date of October.

But nearly a year on and with the bridge closure period taking six months calls for action have been made.

Mr Rowland said: "I feel the town has been very badly let down by the county council procurement process, this project was very badly flawed before it even started.

"As an organisation I would like to call for a public enquiry into the process to ascertain what exactly happened with the appointment of the contractor, what cost benefit analysis took place and what discussions occurred with the contractor to minimise the disturbance on the town."

The leader of the town's traders community is not alone as Martin King, a former Wychavon councillor and town resident, has also been calling for someone to investigate the tender process.

Freedom of Information requests have also been submitted revealing the costs of the top runners for the contract.

These show Hochtief as being £4 million cheaper than its closest contender as its tender totalled £4,576,378.34. Other contractors included Alun Griffithsat £9,548,432.70, Balfour Beatty - 10,429,892.00, BAM Nuttall - £10,355,281.00 and Dawnus at £8,829,621.07.

Mr King said: "Should there be an enquiry, yes. It should be conducted by someone independent to the council.

"It's been a shambles. The whole thing needs a thorough review."

Worcestershire County Council say they will review the project.

Peter Blake, head of integrated transport, said: "The procurement process for the Abbey Bridge and Viaduct project was undertaken in accordance with European Union Procurement Directives and the Public Contract Regulations 2006, ensuring the process and selection of the preferred bidder was open and transparent.

"The contract award criteria was selected to achieve the optimum combination of quality and price to obtain best value for the taxpayer, as would be expected when spending public money.

"Tender submissions were assessed on cost, design of the new structure as well as, importantly, the potential full closure period of the bridge and potential impact on Evesham. Based on this strict criteria bids were scored and the contract was awarded.

"As with all major projects of this nature a full review will be conducted at the end of the project."

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