DfT reasserts overspend 'orthodoxy' after Orwell debacle


The Department for Transport (DfT) has called on Suffolk County Council to explain why costs on a bridge project across the River Orwell ballooned so much that the scheme collapsed.

The estimated cost of the project rose from nearly £97m in 2016 to a potential £140m, an increase that the council attributed to factors such as ‘ground investigation costs, changes in bridge design post consultation and unforeseen procurement costs’.

The council’s cabinet will next week consider a report that recommends stopping the Upper Orwell Crossings project immediately, after efforts to fill a £43m funding gap, which included asking the DfT for an increase on its contribution, failed.

Transport Network asked the DfT to comment its refusal to provide additional funding when Suffolk's neighbour Norfolk was bailed out recently over the Norwich Northern Distributor Road (NNDR).

A spokesperson said: ‘This is a matter for Suffolk County Council. We pledged £77m towards the scheme, which will now be returned to the department following the cancellation of this project.’

The DfT added that the council will need to account for any cost increases on the project and that it has a policy of not committing further funding when this occurs.

The view from the bridge across the Orwell that will never be built

Although the department generally maintains a ‘longstanding’ policy to this effect, it overrode it in the case of nearby Norfolk County Council’s NNDR, for which it provided an extra £10m despite recognising that this ‘would set a precedent, which we would find difficult to argue against in future’.

The DfT did not state what it would do with the unspent allocation. However, it did state that it would be happy to discuss with any emerging proposals the council might bring forward for alternative solutions in Ipswich.

The council defended its spending of £8.3m on the failed project. A spokesperson said: ‘With any project of this size and complexity there is always going to be a level of investment needed to allow any investigations to start. All related project and development costs incurred to date will be paid from our revenue and capital budgets.

‘Whilst this is not the outcome we were hoping for, we remain committed to Ipswich, and look forward to finding other significant funding partners to work with us on building the two smaller bridges, which would provide access to the wet dock island site for economic regeneration.’

Government funding for the scheme was announced by the then chancellor, George Osborne, in the 2016 Budget. Mr Osborne had also backed the failed plan to build a ‘Garden Bridge’ across the Thames in London.

The council’s opposition Labour Group said that the council had come to the right decision eventually, but claimed that the plan for the main bridge across the river had been a ‘vanity project’ on the part of former local MP and minister Ben Gummer.

Labour Group leader Cllr Sarah Adams said: ‘It is hard to get away from the fact that Suffolk County Council has wasted four years trying to deliver a vanity project on behalf of someone who is no longer in office.

‘It was always clear that “Ben’s Bridge’” would have solved none of the transport needs for our town and it’s really disappointing that Ipswich’s residents were repeatedly ignored when they were telling the council “we don’t want this”.’

Ms Adams added that council leader Matthew Hicks ‘has had nine months to end this farce, but he has dithered whilst more money was wasted trying to make up an impossible £43m shortfall for this white elephant.’

‘Instead, time and money should have been spent developing detailed plans for the Northern bypass, something that would reduce town centre traffic and open up business opportunities for thousands of people.’


Also see

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus
highways jobs

Contracts Manager - Core Service

Liverpool City Council
37.849 - 42.683 per year
The successful candidate will manage and maintain Highways partnerships and contractual arrangements to ensure effective, quality and value for... Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Transport Inspectors – Land & Maritime Security

Department for Transport
Looking for Transport Security Inspectors to join our team to focus on direct monitoring and assessing of industry compliance against... London (Greater)
Recuriter: Department for Transport

Lead Engineer [Development]

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council
£40,760 - £41,675 per annum
Looking for an exciting new opportunity? Join us in Knowsley’s Major Development Team! Knowsley (Metropolitan borough), Merseyside
Recuriter: Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Principal Engineer [Development]

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council
£34,788 - £35,934 per annum
Looking for an exciting new opportunity? Join us in Knowsley’s Major Development Team! Knowsley (Metropolitan borough), Merseyside
Recuriter: Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Project Officer - Air Quality

Camden London Borough Council
£33,122 - £38,423
The successful candidate will ideally have a relevant degree or professional qualification. Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council


Royal Borough of Greenwich
£24.462 - £25.809
Seeking an experienced Climbing Arborist who has NPTC / LANTRA qualifications in chainsaw use and climbing operation units for an... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Environmental Enforcement Patrol Officer

Brent Council
£31,548 - £33,291 p.a. inc.
Looking for a person who has experience in undertaking enforcement work, carrying out awareness raising/promotional work.  Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Traffic Management Operative/Foreman

Balfour Beatty
Are you a Traffic Management Operative/Foreman with Highspeed (12AB) Qualifications, looking for a new and exciting opportunity? If so read on..... Leatherhead, Surrey
Recuriter: Balfour Beatty

Principal Economic Growth Officer

Essex County Council
Up to £45,000 per annum
It is an exciting time to be joining the Economic Growth team at Essex County Council. Essex
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Economic Infrastructure Manager

Essex County Council
Up to £57,000 per annum
It is an exciting time to be joining the Economic Growth team at Essex County Council Essex
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Head of Service - Highways

Sheffield City Council
£69,091 - £74,137
Looking for someone dynamic, with vision, energy, and an outward focus who can build strong relationships with all key partners, stakeholders with... Sheffield, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Sheffield City Council

Senior Transport Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£33,799 - £35,934
You will be responsible for assisting the Team Manager with the day to day operational management and delivery of the transport service.  Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

PCN Appeals Officer

Brent Council
£26,745 - £30,711 p.a. inc.
Looking for an experienced parking professional to join the Notice Processing Team. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Environmental Protection Officer

London Borough of Sutton & The Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames
£25,809 to £33,291 (Grade F-G) / £33,291 to £42,684 (Grade H-I)
As an Environmental Protection Officer, you will be part of a small multidisciplinary team delivering a range of statutory environmental functions... Kingston Upon Thames (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Sutton & The Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames

Environmental Protection Team Manager

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£44.607 - £47.511
We would like to hear from exceptional candidates with broad pollution control experience and a can-do attitude who... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Highways Gang Leader

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£24,313 - £28,785 per annum
An exciting opportunity for a Highways Gang Leader has arose based at Taylors Lane, Oldbury. Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Road Agreements Team Leader OCC5803

Oxfordshire County Council
£49,522 - £56,481 per annum
Take the next step in your career - click here to find out more information. Oxford, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Highways and Street Lighting Manager

London Borough of Bromley
Circa £43,000 per annum
Seeking an experienced professional with experience in highway, street lighting and traffic engineering. Bromley (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Bromley

Principal Transport Planner

Brent Council
£48,492 - £51,450 p.a. inc.
The post holder will play a key role in implementing the Mayor’s Transport Strategy at a borough level through... Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Traffic Engineer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£29,636 - £31,371 per annum
The post-holder will be supporting the design, management and maintenance of traffic signals, signs, bollards and... Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council