Millions could have been saved if North Bridge fully shut

Tuesday February 7th 2023


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Donald Turvill

Millions could have been saved if the North Bridge was fully shut to traffic during its refurbishment, it has been admitted — after the latest cost estimate took the total to almost £86m.

The council is planning to cut £12m from the city’s roads repair budget and borrow the same sum to meet the most recent £24m increase.

Added to the previous total, this means the authority could end up spending £86m – nearly FOUR times the first estimate – by the time the project is finished in 2025 – five years behind schedule.

The latest price hike led to a claim that it would have been cheaper to build a new bridge instead of undertaking the major repair – which originally had a price tag of £22m.

Since works commenced in 2018 one-way traffic has been maintained on the North Bridge, a key city centre link between the Capital’s Old and New towns.

But it has now emerged millions could have been wiped off the eye-watering budget if the crossing had been completely closed.

Quizzing council bosses at the finance committee on Tuesday Councillor Graeme Bruce, Conservative, said the latest figure was “staggering”. And he asked: “If you knew it was going to cost over £60m in the first place would you have gone down a different route?”

Gareth Barwell, operational services director, said: “We could have made this bridge, I would guess, five-ish million pounds cheaper if we’d fully closed it.

“The impact on the public transport network would have been significant but this bill could have been cheaper if we’d turned round earlier and said actually we’re going to close North Bridge fully.

“£5m to the council clearly sounds like a lot of cash and I should be clear for members this is a broad estimate.”

After it emerged the cost of the refurbishment had risen again, with the roads budget set to take a hit as a result, Conservative group leader Iain Whyte said it would have been “quicker and cheaper” for the the council to “build a new bridge instead”.

This suggestion was dismissed by Mr Barwell however, who said: “I can guarantee it wouldn’t have been cheaper to build a listed bridge across the north-east coast main line in a capital city, but I can understand people making that point.”

A report said: “The North Bridge refurbishment project is experiencing significant cost pressures due to construction market volatility and increases to the scope of the works.

“The condition of the bridge is now largely known and the project team is now confident that the revised budget will not be exceeded.”

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