Monday, 19 September 2011

Bypass scheme "fiscal madness", says camapign group

Transport Solutions for Lancaster and Morecambe has again rounded on the County Council for its continued support of the M6 Link, despite huge concerns about both the route and, more importantly, the costs of the project if it goes ahead.

Earlier this month, Lancaster mayor and Halton's local Councillor Paul Woodruff wrote to the Lancaster Guardian, arguing that Lancaster and district deserved better than the proposed Heysham M6 Link Road.

TSLM has backed his views continuing to argue that the road will be "damaging and costly" and will not solve local congestion or bring jobs. But alternatives exist which would do both.

"Councillor Woodruff is right too that expenditure on promoting the Lancashire County Council’s preferred route has been massive," says TSLM chair David Gate.

"What people may not realise is that, when the cost of the scheme went down in January, allegedly, the County Council’s contribution went up – from £6 million to £12 million. That’s the contribution from you and me, the council-tax payers of Lancashire who’ll be paying. That was after businesses were asked to contribute to this road they claim is so important to them – and have not offered a single penny piece.

"What’s more – the County Council committed itself to pay for all the extra costs," he adds. "That’s all cost overruns – and which road was ever built without cost overruns?

"Lancashire County Council has in fact already committed to a further £6.5 million to cover further overspend – a tacit admission that overspending is indeed on the cards.

"For example, what happens if the revisions alongside the M6 at Halton Road, which will make the junction here more prominent in the landscape, fail to achieve the cost savings claimed?"

TSLM also point out that the County Council - or we, the taxpayers - will pay for all the extra inflation.

"Just three months after the Council ’s contribution was announced in January 2011, the start date was put back almost a year, adding close to £1 million  inflation: and the Council  now looks like having to find a further £3 million to cover the hike in inflation for the first year, which was assumed  at 2.7% but was actually nearer 5%. The Council  will have to announce these increases at some stage, and they are likely to be the first of many such announcements.

"Councillor Woodruff is also right that a spade has recently been presented to cut the first divot," notes David. "You couldn’t make it up! The spade may be ready, but its main use will be to shovel costs from hard-pressed County Council budgets into the hole labelled “Link Road Funding”.

"The combined effect of cost overrun, flawed estimates of savings and inflation means that Lancashire residents will be looking at a bill of at least £25 million by the summer of 2013 that will have a devastating impact on education, social services and transport budgets. 

"This is fiscal madness."

• For alternatives to the Bypass, visit: http://heyshamm6link.info/

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