Last year we wrote about plans in Sunderland to build a so-called iconic bridge over the River Wear. Over the summer the dream finally came to an end. I say a dream, but many would say it was a pipe-dream and a nightmare, rolled into one.
If it had been built, it would have been England's tallest bridge, standing at 187 metres, however the scheme was beset by problems from the start. Neither Northern Ireland-based contractor Graham or Vinci of France were able to submit a tender within the £118 million budget. Taxpayers, however, are still out of pocket to the tune of £11.1 million. Here is a breakdown of the costs:
· Design, including Utilities, Highways and Bridge -£6.3 million
· Planning, Consents and Scheme Orders - £1 million
· Business Case - £1 million
· Project Management & Staffing costs - £2.8 million
The council has promised these costs will be transferred when a new design is brought forward, but if past experience is anything to go by, no-one is holding their breath.
Cllr Colin Wakefield, an independent councillor in the city, had this to say:
The bridge design was unbuildable. Bridge experts warned of the likely failure of the project and two of the four potential contractors walked away from the project. Sunderland City Council arrogantly pursued their dream, whilst taxpayers continued to face a funding nightmare.
An elegant bridge costing half or less could have been in place now, however the council is still looking to procure an unnecessary and still very expensive cable stay bridge. Great to be bold when its someone else’s money!
So despite many warnings from experts, councillors and council officers ploughed on regardless, thinking they knew better. Waste like this should never happen, but at a time when the council is having to reduce expenditure, it does make you wonder how much more money Sunderland City Council is going to throw at this project.