AFTER being inundated with letters, phone calls and emails since last week’s announcement that the Abbey Bridge rebuilding project had been delayed again, this time stretching well into the new year, The Journal put some of the questions readers have been asking, as well as some of our own, to Worcestershire County Council and bridge contractors Hochtief.

The county council said it could not answer some of the questions as Hochtief would have the required information.

However, a spokesman for the contractors said they would not be adding anything further to a statement released on Tuesday, which can be read in full on page 4 opposite, and therefore would not be directly answering our questions.

Below is a list of the responses we received to the questions you want answered.

Q: Why has the project fallen so far behind schedule?

A: WCC – this is a question for Hochtief.

Q: Bearing in mind that we have had one of the warmest and driest autumn for years, how can the weather be blamed for delays?

A: WCC – this is a question for Hochtief.

Q: Shouldn’t river levels and wind have been expected and factored in to the project timescale?

A: WCC – this is a question for Hochtief.

Q: Have there been mistakes/ accidents/damage caused which have led to the delay?

A: WCC – this is a question for Hochtief.

Q: Will there be an investigation into what went wrong?

A: WCC – yes, as you would expect, there will be a full review of the contract.

This happens, quite rightly with all major projects of this scale.

However, our focus at this time is to work with Hochtief to ensure that they complete the bridge as quickly as possible.

Q: Was the 10-week closure plan always too short a timescale to complete the work?

A: WCC – a seven-week closure plan duration was put forward by Hochtief as part of their tender for the project and subsequently as part of their programme of work when they were awarded the contract – it was not stipulated by the county council.

Before the contract was awarded there was a rigorous process of checks and clarifications with the contractor where references and methods of work including, operations and the duration of the closure, were scrutinised and strongly challenged by the county council.

As part of this process Hochtief changed their programme to a 10-week closure.

Q: When did you become aware the project was so far behind schedule?

A: WCC – the contract is constantly monitored against the contractors submitted programme and discussions with the contractor during the closure period have been ongoing.

The county council was informed of the potential and then actual delays during the closure period at which stage we informed local media, stakeholders, businesses and residents as soon as practicable.

Keeping local residents, businesses and stakeholders has been a key priority for the County Council and this will continue.

Q: Have any members of the Hochtief team been relieved of their duties? Rumours are that the project manager and foreman have been laid off.

A: WCC – this is a question for Hochtief.

Q: Is there a penalty clause in order to fine Hochtief for continually missing the date of completion?

Has a fine been considered and where would the money go?

Was there an agreed fee to pay Hochtief or will they continue to be paid for however long the project takes to be completed?

A: WCC – yes, there are liquidated damages included in the contract (penalty clauses, in non-technical speak).

Contract details are obviously commercially sensitive and confidential. Any monies recovered are part of the project costs.

The contract with Hochtief is essentially a fixed price contract to deliver the works. The county council will seek to ensure Hochtief meets its contractual obligations in full.

Q: Do the measures to support the town and its traders go far enough considering the extended period of time the bridge will be closed?

A: WCC – the county council will continue to do all we can to help the people of Evesham and its businesses whilst the bridge remains closed to vehicles.

We will work with Wychavon District Council to continue the car parking discounts available in the town centre in 2014 and halfprice bus fare offer will remain in place until the bridge reopens. The team manually operating the traffic signals through the diversion route will also stay on site to ease traffic flows as much as possible.

Q: What is your reaction to people calling for ‘heads to roll’ or resignations over the project?

A: WCC – there will be a full review of the contract once the project is complete.

The delays to the project are due to programmed closure having to be extended by Hochtief.