Ashley Muldoon and Matt Stagg reveal how relations with Wembley steel contractor degenerated

Details of how the relationship between Multiplex and Cleveland Bridge broke down over Wembley emerged at the High Court yesterday.

In the third day of the case, the court heard how problems began to bite in December 2003 when Cleveland Bridge requested a 50-week extension of time for the steelwork because of late and incomplete designs.

Mr Stagg, former UK construction director for Multiplex, said the request was an attempt by Cleveland Bridge to "slow down the project" and to exert pressure for a more favourable contract through "spurious claims" for variations and extensions of time. He said that the Darlington subcontractor had been "overstating" the problems on site.

He described Cleveland Bridge's attitude as "offensive". He said: "CBUK were not accepting any responsibility for their actions. CBUK had a fixed price arrangement, they were attempting to turn into a cost-plus/time at large arrangement."

In his cross-examination, Mr Tomlinson QC, Cleveland Bridge's barrister, referred to a £1.6m deduction Multiplex made to a certificate of payment on "the day before Christmas eve [2003]" as "insensitive". Stagg replied: "I don't see what that's got to do with it. They were costs for works we had done on their behalf."

Earlier in the day Wembley project director Ashley Muldoon gave his final evidence in which he denied he had a predetermined plan, dubbed the "Armageddon plan", to replace Cleveland Bridge with Hollandia after the arch had been lifted. He said Armageddon was "a worst case scenario".

Tomlinson put it to Muldoon that Multiplex had brought in Hollandia in a bid to bring its steel erection costs down from £90m to £75m.

Tomlinson added that Multiplex had been seeking a fixed price deal of £75m with Cleveland Bridge, which the firm had refused. He said: "The only way to keep steel down to £75m was to remove CBUK from site."

Muldoon replied: "that is not correct". He said his primary aim as not the £75m figure and that his priority was getting "the right subcontractor on board with the right frame of mind."

He said that he had to prepare for the possibility of Cleveland Bridge leaving the site.

He said: "I couldn't have the site sitting there dead. I had a right to get a price and a programme from Hollandia while I waited for a price and a programme from CBUK."

He added: "Going for Hollandia didn't secure the work for £75m either. They didn't offer me a fixed price."

The case continues on Tuesday.