Attleborough bypass costs mystery

An £8m increase in the costs of the Attleborough bypass project left town officials "mystified" yesterday - and many questions unanswered.

An £8m increase in the costs of the Attleborough bypass project left town officials "mystified" yesterday - and many questions unanswered.

All the way through the three-year project spokesmen for the Highways Agency have put the cost at £22m, until a press release was sent out last Wednesday marking the extension's opening, when it stated the cost had now become £30m.

Buried in the small print it stated that "the total cost of the scheme is £30m, which includes £22m construction costs".

But after the EDP requested a breakdown in the costs, a Highways Agency spokesman made the following statement: "The A11 Attleborough bypass scheme has opened to traffic on budget and ahead of schedule. The bypass has cost £22m to build.

"Once preparation, supervision, land compensation claims and land costs are taken into account the total scheme cost £30m."

The EDP will now put a Freedom of Information request into the Highways Agency, asking again for a full breakdown in costs - this time including the figures that the agency failed to supply yesterday.

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Attleborough mayor Jeremy Burton yesterday queried how preparation, supervision and land costs for the 3.3-mile stretch of road could possibly cost £8m - and stated that he knew that for at least one large piece of land purchased, the cost had been "negligible".

He said that the figures raised further questions as to why the Highways Agency refused to build an extension to the Besthorpe Road junction, which would have solved much of the town's congestion troubles.

Mr Burton said original plans for the works, drawn up three years ago by the Highways Agency, included a new road bridge making the Besthorpe junction two-way and cost £800,000 - but that the junction was later stripped from the plans and then said to cost £2.18m.

"We're mystified by the escalation in the figures as we've gone along," he said. "We can't seem to break it down.

"We were even prepared to compromise on the Besthorpe junction, sacrifice the road bridge and just build a slip road on to the southbound carriageway, but we were told the Highways Agency could not afford even that.

"Now it seems that they have spent £8m more than they said they would. The costs seem to have increased enormously over three years - I hope they haven't just plucked the figures out of the air."

Work to plant trees on the bypass will continue for a few weeks, the Highways Agency said yesterday, but promised disruption for motorists "would be kept to a minimum".