Nightmare delays to Killingworth Road works push council towards £1.9m budget overspend

Nightmare roadworks at the infamous Killingworth Road project have left council bosses facing a budget overspend of almost GBP2m. The much-maligned scheme to widen the road and install a new Metro bridge saw one of the busiest commuter routes into Newcastle closed for two years, after a string of delays. The closure of the South Gosforth route was supposed to last from July 2017 to the following February, but eventually dragged on throughout 2019- with delays blamed on factors such as asbestos discoveries, bad weather, land slippage, and a "labyrinth of utility pipes and old infrastructure".

New figures have now revealed the impact of those setbacks on Newcastle City Council's coffers.

Killingworth Road roadworks

The authority says that its GBP31m project to upgrade problem roads across the north of the city, also including the Haddricks Mill junction, Blue House Roundabout, and Cowgate junction, is running GBP1.9m over budget. Councillors heard on Tuesday that the council is "vigorously" attempting to reclaim the additional costs it incurred at Killingworth Road during the section of the works undertaken by Northern Gas Networks, when the worst of the delays occurred. However, civic centre bosses have also warned that other major transport projects could see their funding cut in order to bring the budget back on track.

Mark Nicholson, the council's assistant director of financial services, said that the GBP1.9m figure was presented as a "worst case scenario". He told the Finance and Budget Monitoring Scrutiny Sub-Committee that council officers are "optimistic" about reclaiming the extra costs from the Killingworth Road gasworks and that reducing the funding for future transport projects was "very much a back up plan".

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Gosforth councillor Colin Ferguson said: "The biggest concern for me is the potential knock-on impact of this. There was a suggestion that, if they cannot claim those costs back, it will impact on downstream projects in the local transport plan.

"I am yet to see any detail on what effect that would have on future infrastructure projects. I am sincerely hoping that the council can claim that money back, but if they don't then we need clarity urgently on what the knock-on effect will be." It is understood that ongoing works at Haddricks Mill, completion of which has been pushed back from 'early 2020' to September, are running in line with their GBP4m budget.

Work on a controversial reconfiguration of that junction, where six busy routes converge, began last summer. But council bosses have blamed the delays to that scheme on the "late start of utility contractors" and a decision to schedule the most disruptive works during school holidays. The Haddricks Mill junction is being rebuilt to reposition to the two mini-roundabouts and install new traffic lights and crossings on the approaches, which the council hopes will make the flow of traffic smoother.

From February 17 to 23, a section of Haddricks Mill Road near Majestic Wine will be closed to southbound traffic to allow for road resurfacing and the laying of new kerb lines. Temporary lane closures will also be in place during the Easter school holidays in April, preventing eastbound traffic travelling down Station Road. But the worst of the roadworks misery is being reserved for the summer, with resurfacing work moving towards the centre of the Haddricks Mill junction in early July .

That will mean a series of full and partial closures around the bottleneck, lasting 55 days.

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