Two of the last PFI projects undertaken by ailing support services group Jarvis have gone nearly £40m over budget between them.
The cost of the £30m Whittington Hospital scheme in north London has increased 50% to £45m and delays on schools in the Wirral, in the North-west, have added another £7m to the price, taking the total overspend there to £24m.
These projects are two of the eight construction contracts for which Jarvis sold equity stakes on 29 January. Jarvis still provides construction support on them, although most of its principal activities have been transferred to other contractors.
At Whittington, the consortium behind the project has intensified efforts to get it back on track and this has added to the cost. It was feared that completion of the contract would be delayed by several months after work stopped last October. It is now estimated that the first phase will be completed at the end of January, two weeks behind schedule.
In February this year there were no workers on the site, but over the next two months the number rose to 160. The bill for the four months when the site was empty, up until January this year, included hiring a firm of specialist pigeon catchers at a cost of £60,000, as the birds had started nesting in the roof.
A source close to the project said: “Tonnes of pigeon crap had to be cleared out of the hospital. It has been a difficult project, that’s for sure.”
At the Wirral, the schools have fallen a further six months behind schedule, having originally been due for completion in December 2003. Several structures were found to be unsafe or impractical and have been knocked down.
The final construction cost is now estimated to have risen to £80m – the original sum was £56m.
If you ever want a story of a horror contract, Wirral schools is it
Source close to Wirral schools job
The project is due for completion in April. However, one of the schools is expected be completed next week – an achievement described as a “major milestone” by one source.
He added: “If you ever want a story of a horror contract, Wirral schools is it.”
The news about the contracts emerged after reports last week that Jarvis had paid an extra £25,000 for bricks after ordering the wrong ones for a wall at a £30m fire station scheme in Tyne & Wear.
The project involves the construction of six buildings, only two of which have been built. Completion of all six had been due on 26 July last year. Chris Foster, project manager at Tyne & Wear Fire Authority, said he now hoped to have all of the stations ready by December.
A Jarvis spokesperson said: “We do not comment on the specifics of costing on our contracts.”