Contractor says council official wanted Cambridge busway to resemble scheme in France that he ‘liked’

Contractor Bam Nuttall has pointed the finger at a senior Cambridgeshire council official along with consultant Atkins in its defence and counter-claim against the local authority’s claim over the construction of a guided busway.

The Cambridgeshire Guided Busway - the largest project of its type in the UK - was originally due to be finished in early 2009 for a price of £116m, of which £84m was to go to Bam Nuttall.

It was finally handed over to the council on 21 April 2011 at a reported cost of £152m.

As reported by BuiIding this week, Bam Nuttall’s defence - which denies the council’s £54.7m claim and says it is itself owed £43.1m - alleges “serious” failings on the part of independent project manager Atkins, which it claims attempted to create “spurious” reasons for the council to not accept completion of the project.

It also claims that Bob Menzies (pictured), Cambridgeshire County Council’s head of infrastructure delivery, caused “very substantial” design and construction costs by insisting that a section of the 25km-long bus route should resemble a French busway.

Bam Nuttall says Menzies wanted it to look “similar to the Douai Busway in France which he had visited and liked”

Bam Nuttall alleges that an unguided section known as the Arbury Link should have been built as an “ordinary road”. The company says that Menzies wanted it to “look similar both to the actual guided sections and to the Douai busway in France which he had visited and liked”.

“The required dual concrete strips required a completely bespoke engineering design which was totally different to the design and the method of construction used elsewhere on the project,” the defence says.

Menzies is also accused of wrongly refusing to take over the northern section of the busway for almost 18 months because of alleged defects, which Bam Nuttall denies would have prevented use of the works.

The defence adds that, although employed as an “independent” project manager, Atkins “failed to act independently and fairly”.

A spokesperson for Atkins said: “We were engaged as the independent administrator on the Cambridge Busway scheme and we are confident that we always acted in the best interests of the project. We are unable to discuss any details at this stage due to the ongoing legal action.”

Menzies said the council remained confident of its position. “It would be inappropriate for us to make any further comment until we have reviewed Bam’s defence and counterclaim and prepared and provided our formal response,” he said.