A NEW cycle route on the outskirts of York has increased in cost for a third time and will now cost taxpayers more than £1 million.
Coun Dave Merrett, cabinet member for transport, said he agreed to the latest £350,000 increase only “through gritted teeth” but local councillor Tony Richardson warned the project was in danger of becoming a “white elephant”.
The council says the new route will give people in Huntington, Strensall, Haxby, Wigginton and Earswick a safe cycle route to Clifton Moor, will also benefit Joseph Rowntree School pupils and will form part of the orbital cycle route around the city. It has been pursuing the project since 2011, but the estimated cost has risen from £700,000 to £925,000 then £967,000 and now £1.317 million.
At a meeting last week, Coun Merrett, cabinet member for transport, agreed to the latest increase, to fund a new bridge over the York to Scarborough railway line. Engineers said last September they were more confident in their cost estimates, but it has emerged the ground conditions need improved and the bridge will not be built until later this year.
Coun Merrett said the project was key to getting people around York but said: “It is clearly not a happy situation that we have found the ground conditions unstable and the bridge has had to be redesigned.”
Tony Richardson, Conservative councillor for Haxby and Wigginton, said the extra £350,000 could have funded cycling projects elsewhere, such as along Wigginton Road or near Westfield Beck.
He said: “I know there is a need for new cycle paths but there is also a need to balance the books, and I would hate to see this become a white elephant.”
Coun Richardson added: “There should have been a proper engineers’ report before the work started, but for some reason this was missed.”
A council spokeswoman said 80 per cent of respondents in a consultation last year backed the project, which is the flagship scheme in the £4.6 million Government funded iTravel York programme.
The council initially hoped to use the A1237 railway bridge but that plan was sunk by safety concerns.
It then hoped to use the existing embankments but with a new bridge and improved connections at the Wigginton Road and Haxby Road ends, but the spokeswoman said poor ground conditions meant a “significantly more complex scheme” was needed to provide acceptable support for the bridge.
She said Network Rail had also laid down “unexpected additional requirements”, which had increased the budget cost, and said other schemes in the Local Transport Plan would be re-programmed to cover the cost increase.
Tony Clarke, council head of transport, said much of the path had been built and was usable westbound for cyclists already on the outer ring road, but would not be fully functional until the new bridge was built.
The cost increase follows a similar overspend at Clifton Green in 2009, when the £300,000 budget had to be increased to £520,000.