Monday, December 4, 2023

Plans for Grays underpass withdrawn over spiralling costs

PLANS for an underpass on a dangerous rail crossing have hit the buffers after estimated costs spiralled to an eye-watering £46million reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

The Grays underpass scheme was approved in 2017 but has been hit with steadily increasing costs since its original budget of £27.4million. A planning application is now set to be withdrawn because of the financial risk to the effectively bankrupt council.

It comes despite acknowledgement that the existing crossing poses a “clear safety risk” with a “significant increase in the number of near misses”.

The increased costs are said to have emerged during detailed design work for the underpass. The latest increases are said to be down to a revised construction programme with additional costs around access to the rail line and a 15.4 per cent increase in costs because of inflation.

Lee Watson, Labour councillor for West Thurrock, South Stifford and Purfleet-on-Thames, said: “This is a direct consequence of a bankrupt Tory council that is unable to deliver any essential major project, from Grays underpass, Purfleet on Thames and Stanford Le Hope station.”

The council is undergoing a review of its spending projects by Government appointed commissioners after issuing a s114 notice  because it could not balance its budget in the face of a £1.3 billion debt from bad investments.

Councillors will discuss the set back at an extraordinary meeting of the planning, transport and regeneration overview and scrutiny committee which is expected to meet tonight.(Thursday)

A report to councillors following a review of the project said: “The project review process has highlighted that in addition to the spiralling forecasted costs there have been significant issues with the management of the programme, with reference to design process management, planning and utility diversion planning.

“The findings of the review process are that the underpass scheme in its current form is not in a technical state to move forward, and it does not continue to represent value for money. In addition, it is considered that the council is holding too much of the financial risk on this project given current funding imbalance and benefits arising.”

It adds: “The recommendation of the review process is that the underpass design should not be pursued and that the current planning application for the underpass be withdrawn.”

The review recommends that a new pedestrian crossing over the railway, potentially as part of a new station and mixed use residential development.


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