Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnel delays: Call for answers over contract decision
A councillor has demanded answers on the decision to hire a contractor which went bust, causing major delays to works on the Tyne Pedestrian and Cycle Tunnel.
The project has been dogged by problems since a decision to renovate it was made a decade ago – with costs ballooning from a £6.9million to an estimated £15 million.
Since shutting for renovations in 2013, the project has missed its original deadline of 2015 and according to the latest indications, won’t open until early next year.
Setbacks included initial contractor GB Building Solutions going into administration in 2015, the discovery of asbestos, issues with suppliers and another contractor, Vaughan Engineering, going into administration in March this year.
At the newly-formed North East Joint Transport Overview and Scrutiny Committee, South Tyneside councillor, John McCabe, raised questions about the original process.
He said: “Of all of the people who sought to fulfil that contract it was given to someone who couldn’t fufil it and there’s a cost to the public purse.
“You can make a decision on financial grounds but I would like to know who the expert was who said this company could fufil this contract. It beggars belief.”
The committee heard the original contract decision crossed over from the Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Authority to the North East Combined Authority (NECA) – formed in 2014.
As works come to an end, internal audits of the contracting process will be released and discussed by members of the transport scrutiny committee in future.
Chief finance officer for NECA, Paul Woods, said: “We think the tunnels will open towards the end of January or early February. There will be a glass inclined lift at each end and we will replace the escalators as well as lifts.
“It should be a significant improvement but it has come at a substantial extra cost.
“The cost has been funded from the Tyne Tunnel reserve so effectively it has been funded from tolls, the car users of the tunnel”.
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service