Bascule contractor defends town chaos

PUBLISHED: 10:20 19 August 2008 | UPDATED: 21:05 05 July 2010

THE contractor in charge of the ill-fated repairs to Lowestoft's vital bascule bridge yesterday issued a staunch defence of its actions and hit back at claims it had been incompetent.

THE contractor in charge of the ill-fated repairs to Lowestoft's vital bascule bridge yesterday issued a staunch defence of its actions and hit back at claims it had been incompetent.

Bosch Rexroth has spoken in detail for the first time about its key role in the controversial £2.3m project, which should have been completed before Christmas, and insisted the delays were unavoidable.

Business development manager Mark Simpson also revealed the next phase of work, which is due to get under way next month, will involve a further 15 separate overnight closures.

Anger towards project managers the Highways Agency and contractors Bosch Rexroth has grown as closures continue and bring traffic chaos to the town.

Waveney MP Bob Blizzard previously said the delays were down to incompetence, but Mr Simpson insisted the only fault he could find with the project was a lack of communication with the public from his company.

He revealed that parts of the bridge differed to plans of the structure studied before work started and that it was impossible to predict the poor condition of certain sections until the project got under way.

Mr Simpson said: “We are a global manufacturer involved in projects all over the world and we are very competent. There has been no incompetency involved in these closures.

“If anybody else had been involved, there might have been a longer time involved. The people on site are there because they are professionals. We believe there is no-one better at turning a situation around.”

Mr Blizzard previously questioned why spare parts for the bridge had not been prepared in advance of the work, but Mr Simpson said no bridge was the same and each new part had to be specially prepared. He also insisted it would have been wrong to carry out short-term fixes just to meet deadlines.

“What we want to do is find a solution that's going to last for the next 30 years and support the economy,” added Mr Simpson.

Dates for the next set of closures have yet to be finalised, but Mr Simpson said two of the sessions would be used to complete engineering work while the remaining 13 shutdowns would involve testing of the new parts.

It remains unclear if the Highways Agency will fine Bosch Rexroth for the delays and Mr Simpson could not yet say if, and by how much, the overrun would increase the cost of the project.

Mr Simpson also said it was up to the Highways Agency to decide if any compensation should be paid to traders. While the agency has not made any offer of financial recompense, it has agreed to fund a study into a third bridge for Lowestoft.

Mr Blizzard said: “All I know is that despite the most severe warnings before they started work… things have gone horribly wrong. Whatever they might say about not doing anything wrong, the fact remains that somebody, somewhere did get it wrong. The scheme has paralysed the town and they should not have left anything to chance.”

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