Soaring costs mean a planned new super highway serving north west Preston is going to cost £57m more than first anticipated.
News of the cash bombshell was delivered at a meeting of the Transport for Lancashire committee this week.
It is now thought the new Preston Western Distributor road, seen as the key to providing 5,000 new homes in north west Preston, will cost £161.6m.
Despite the escalating costs the scheme is set to proceed to its next stage. This will mean compulsory purchase orders can be obtained by the county council to ensure land is available for the route’s development.
The committee, a sub-committee of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership(LEP), was told the original estimate of £104.5m was made before any site investigation or design work.
The 4.3kn dual carriageway will connect the A583 Preston to Blackpool Road at Lea with the M55 at a new motorway Junction 2, near Bartle.
It is now known two major viaducts, each 250 m in length, will have to be constructed.
A report to the committee revealed: ”One is extremely costly due to the extremely poor ground conditions identified through detailed geotechnical investigations and subsequent requirement for deep piling.”
The committee’s acting chairman Coun Michael Green, county council cabinet member for economic development, environment and planning, said: “You can imagine the shock Coun Geoff Driver (council leader) and myself had when we saw the difference in those figures. We are where we are. We know this is crucially important to the centre of Lancashire as a whole and also to the west of the county and Fylde.”
After the meeting he said: “The road is of strategic importance in terms of housing developments and the growth of the Lancashire economy. That’s why it’s right to still press ahead to complete that road, but that doesn’t reduce our disappointment at becoming aware of the figures.
“We will have to find the funding via the City Deal. It will go forward while we continue to seek any other alternative forms of funding.”
The price rise includes additional costs for the diversion of the Hodder Aqueduct and because of the risks of working in hazardous environments over waterways, railways and motorways.
During the meeting Blackburn with Darwen councillor and LEP Board member Phil Riley asked “Does there come a moment when this doesn’t work? There has to be a moment when escalating costs become a matter of concern.”
But LEP Board member Graham Cowley said the scheme would have wider benefits and said he wanted to welcome the fact such an important scheme for the sub-region and beyond “was actually here now and we have some certainty about its delivery.”
A report by Dave Colbert, the County Council’s specialist adviser on transport planning, advised the route has potential to generate an additional £144m of GVA (gross value added) for the local economy over the 60 year evaluation period “principally through unlocked development.”
£58m funding for the route will come from the Lancashire Growth Deal and Highways England will provide £25m towards the cost of the new motorway junction. The remainder of the route costs will be funded through the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal.
•The committee noted the project has developed to the expected standard in most areas and recommended the LEP Board grant the scheme conditional approval at its meeting on January 30. This will pave the way for the council to apply not just for compulsory purchase orders and planning consents but for any highway orders affecting existing roads.
•This the largest transport project in the Lancashire Growth Deal programme and a key project for the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal.
•It will support the delivery of the city’s new “strategic housing location” and 5,000 new homes.
•It will improve access between the Enterprise Zone site at Warton and the area.
• It will create the opportunity for a new “parkway” station at Cottam by the Preston to Blackpool North railway line, providing rail based park and ride facilities for commuters to Preston, Manchester, Liverpool and Manchester.
•The road should reduce peak hour congestion in Preston city centre and enable the introduction of bus priority measures and improvements to promote walking and cycling.