Cost of Cooper Bridge congestion-busting scheme rises before any work has even started

The cost of creating a relief road and viaduct for traffic-clogged Cooper Bridge has gone up – before any tarmac has been laid.

Friday, 6th September 2019, 10:44 am
Kirklees Council has requested an increase in the amount of development money needed to progress the scheme

Building work on the scheme – currently forecast to cost £77.3m, up from £69.2m – is not set to begin until 2022 at the earliest and may not be completed until 2029.

But in the meantime Kirklees Council has requested an increase in the amount of development money needed to progress the scheme: up from £750,000 to £965,000.

The extra £215,000 was agreed at a meeting of West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), a group of leading councillors and officers from West Yorkshire councils, plus York, that works on major infrastructure projects.

A report to WYCA’s investment committee said the project had encountered “a number of issues” that had impacted on development costs.

These included the termination of the contract with the original supplier appointed to develop the economic case and associated traffic modelling for the scheme

A new supplier has now been appointed. However the changeover means the project’s outline business case (OBC) will not now be submitted until March 2020 – a delay of 16 months.

In approving the expenditure WYCA also accepted the extension for delivering the OBC.

Debate on the “change request” lasted just over two minutes.

Speaking in support of the scheme Clr Peter McBride (Lab, Dalton) said: “This is not an ask for additional money. It’s a variation of what was originally proposed to create a gyratory for Cooper Bridge.

“This scheme proposes to disperse the traffic through a series of roads that would have the same effect.

“It should be really a joint [Kirklees/Calderdale initiative] because actually half the scheme is in Calderdale.”

The project, formally known as the A62/A644 (Wakefield Road) Link Road scheme, was unveiled last December.

It aims to reduce traffic levels around the three-arm Cooper Bridge roundabout as well as on the A62 Leeds Road and the A644 Wakefield Road.

Engineers have put forward three options for the new link, which is set to include a 450m-long viaduct traversing the railway, the Calder and Hebble Canal, and the River Calder.

However Clr McBride has said the scheme will be “more modest” than that unveiled last year.

Speaking in June he said “a massive gyratory” as originally planned was “no longer going to happen”.

Commenting on the latest development funding Clr Martyn Bolt (Con, Mirfield) said he was “shocked and dismayed” at the speed of the decision.

Clr Bolt, who attended the investment committee meeting in Leeds but was told he could not speak about the project, said: “It went through in two minutes and 13 seconds.

“It takes five times longer than that to get from the M62 to the Cooper Bridge junction if you’re driving in the afternoon.”

Clr Bolt said clarity was needed on the overall cost of the scheme, which appeared to have increased by £8.1m.

“We are told it’s a higher cost – £77.3m – but according to Peter McBride it’s a reduced scheme.

“That’s a direct contradiction.”

He described an engagement process, during which members of the public were invited to consider three options for the project, as “a fiasco” and demanded to know how much it had cost.