THE construction firm behind the replacement of Evesham’s Abbey Bridge will face fines of more than £250,000 for the delay in delivering the vital new link to the town, it has finally been revealed.
But angry traders in the town have slammed the amount as a “joke”, saying it is only a tiny fraction of the amount the delays have cost their businesses.
The £8 million project, which began in March last year, was set to be completed by December and see the bridge closed in full for just 10 weeks.
But long delays blighted the project and left traders in the town struggling.
Now Worcestershire County Council has revealed to the Journal exactly how much contractor Hochtief will be fined for the long delays.
The extent of the fines, which the council has kept under wraps up until now, is £1,050 per day for 49 days - the amount of time over the agreed closure period contained in the tender, and a further £1,000 for each day over the contract completion date - currently assessed as December 10 last year.
This means Hochtief has already run up penalties of £254,050, but that figure could reach £298,050 if the project is not fully completed until the end of May as currently anticipated.
But Kim Dunn, owner of Bonk clothing in Evesham, said: “I’m actually a bit disgusted because I had a business worth £80,000 before the bridge saga and now it’s worth nothing. So £250,000 for the whole of Evesham is not enough.”
Sean O’Connell from Gofaster Graphics said: “It’s a complete joke.”
Ali Adlkish, owner of Avonside Motors, was alarmed to hear the penalties had been set so low.
“I am totally shocked,” he said. “That money must go to the right places. I think it should go to the traders most in need, not us but others.”
Mayor Mark Goodge, Tony Roland, chairman of the Vale of Evesham Commerce and Tourism Association, and Tony Fisher, of LIFE Emporium in Vine Mews, all said it was difficult to comment on the fine amounts but hoped they were used to support the traders.
Mr Fisher said: “They are probably not enough because of the havoc caused and the downturn in trade. It’s not really compensating for what we have lost.”
Cllr John Smith, cabinet member for highways and county councillor for Evesham north west, said the money would go back into the town but that it is still too early to provide details say of how.
The council has also confirmed there will be an inquiry into the project, something called for by traders and Evesham residents.
Peter Blake, head of integrated transport, said: “There will be a full and thorough review of the Abbey Bridge and Viaduct replacement contract and project, the findings of which will be made available to public.
"We also anticipate the council’s cross-party scrutiny panel will look to examine the issue in due course.
“Although the link re-opened to vehicles and pedestrians on March 31 final sign off of the financial settlement is not expected until later this year.
"It’s not possible to begin a comprehensive review process until this has happened as the final facts of the contract will not be known.”
No-one from Hochtief was available to comment at the time of going to press.