Wembley contractor Multiplex has rejected claims made last week by Cleveland Bridge that it tried to bust the firm with an "armageddon plan".

The firm has denied that its intention was to force Cleveland Bridge out of business by withholding £1.25m. It claims it was entitled to withhold the money by a breach of contract regarding the arch.

The claims are presented in a legal reply to Cleveland Bridge, filed with the Technology and Construction Court on Wednesday.

Multiplex also denies that it intended to appoint steel firm Hollandia as soon as the arch was lifted, but rather spoke to the firm as a contingency measure in case it could not reach agreement with Cleveland Bridge. Hollandia was not engaged to take over on site erection until 6 July.

Instead, Multiplex claims that Cleveland Bridge had its own plan, codenamed Project Trafalgar, to stop work on the pretext that Multiplex had repudiated the terms of its contract.

Multiplex claims that in December 2003 it was approached by a representative of Cleveland Bridge, who suggested that the firm purchase part of Cleveland Bridge or remove some of the steelwork from the contractor's scope.

Multiplex denied that its intention was to force Cleveland Bridge using ‘project armageddon’

It claims that the board of Cleveland Bridge's parent company was told on 7 May 2004 that Cleveland Bridge had "dramatically overspent" its budget and that the overspend was in the region of £6m. Multiplex claims Cleveland Bridge realised that it was substantially at fault but sought a mechanism to avoid realising the effect, and implemented Project Trafalgar.

Multiplex's other contentions are as follows:

  • It denies it agreed to pay £32.7m for works up to 15 February 2004.
  • It denies it acted dishonestly in going back on the £32.7m deal and claims that it was deceived by Cleveland Bridge.
  • Multiplex claims Cleveland Bridge should have informed it of the 15 February deal, saying: "Had there been any such agreement as alleged and had Cleveland Bridge realised that there was such an agreement, Cleveland Bridge could have and should have raised the existence of the agreement with Multiplex (which it did not)."
  • It denies there was an "armageddon plan" to dismiss Cleveland Bridge from the project. Multiplex regarded Cleveland Bridge leaving the project as a worst-case scenario, which is what the term "armageddon" referred to.
Multiplex and its former steelwork contractor are suing each other for damages and breach of contract after Cleveland left the job 18 months ago. Multiplex is claiming £38m whereas Cleveland is seeking about half that amount.

The two have revised their original claims, first drawn up in November 2004, ahead of a four-week trial, which begins on 25 April.