A £1.9m bridge that was due to form a key element of a major development in Darlington has been scrapped after years of delays – to be replaced by a smaller bridge.
The project to link the new Central Park development and the town centre with a pedestrian bridge is now almost eight years overdue and will cost at least £700,000 more than first planned.
The plans for a landmark bridge to cross the East Coast Main Line close to Darlington College were first revealed in 2006 but were beset by legal disputes, technical issues and the recession.
After resolving a legal dispute about the costs of the delayed scheme, Darlington Borough Council and its contractor, Carillion, have dropped the plans for the original bridge, which was to be 15m high and made of a special polymer material usually found in the marine industry.
A smaller bridge, made of steel and with simpler design, has now been proposed to provide access for pedestrians and cyclists across the East Coast Main Line, at a cost of £1.65m.
The entire project – which includes the partial manufacture and design of the original bridge and the cost of the new bridge – is expected to reach £2.65m.
The original budget for the bridge project was £1.9m.
Of that £2.65m, Darlington Borough Council said it expects its financial input to be £1m, while the remaining £1.65m came from the Department for Transport and English Partnerships.
In addition, the council took legal and expert advice. The Northern Echo reported in 2011 that the council had set aside £200,000 to cover legal fees in the dispute.
Darlington Borough Council said it had inherited the problem bridge from the now-disbanded Tees Valley Regeneration, which began the Central Park project, but that it was now able to build an ‘appropriate’ crossing on the site.
Council officials said the authority and Carillion both had to bear extra costs associated with the problems of the previous bridge, but insisted that its procedures for handling capital projects were ‘robust’ and that the majority of its building projects ran to time and budget.
A council spokeswoman said: “The council took over from Tees Valley Regeneration after Carillion were appointed to build the bridge. During the course of the build technical challenges arose which both parties sought to resolve.
“Both parties regret the delay in the provision of the bridge, but positive discussions enabled progress to be made.
“The pedestrian and cycle bridge will provide an important and safe crossing to Darlington College, Teesside University and the wider Central Park.”
The planning application for the new bridge has been submitted to the council’s planning department. If it is passed, work on the new bridge is expected to begin this summer.
- 2006: Plans for a 65m long, 15m high pedestrian bridge to link Darlington College with Haughton Road across the East Coast Main Line are announced.
- 2007-08: Tenders for the project are submitted and Carillion is appointed as contractor.
- 2009/10: Tees Valley Regeneration, which had been running the wider Central Park project, is disbanded. Darlington Borough Council takes over Central Park and the pedestrian bridge project.
- 2010: Planning permission for the bridge is agreed by Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee.
- 2010: The sub-contractor appointed to manufacture the bridge using fibre reinforced polymer goes into liquidation.
- 2011: A replacement subcontractor is appointed by Carillion to build the bridge.
- 2011/12: Legal dispute between Darlington Borough Council and Carillion about the cost of the contract following the delays and technical aspects of the bridge.
- 2013: Carillion and the council resolve the disagreement and make plans for a smaller, simpler bridge.
- 2014: A planning application is submitted for the new bridge, to be designed and built by Carillion.