Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Longdendale Bypass & the Credit Crunch - is this the end of the road?

Today is somewhat of a watershed for this blog, because we finally got ourselves in newsprint. Yes, the MEN even asked us for a quote! The story was the one we broke nearly 2 weeks ago, about the massive projected cost increase of the Bypass.

But it's also bad news for other areas - the Government has approved the Cheshire (A34) bypass, and has pretty much underwritten it by pouring in £48 million (94%) of the total £51 million needed for the scheme. One can't imagine the government throwing £295 million at the Longdendale Bypass, and indeed, they have no intention of doing so.

So with an ever-widening 'funding gap' (between what Central Government will throw in and what the North West Local Authorities must find themselves) , the longer this whole thing plays out the better the chance this scheme - and others - will never see the light of day. In the coming months, expect to see the Longdendale Overlord Roy Oldham scuttling around government ministers and laying down the law at the North West Regional Assembly to get his pet project through.

But there is a wider context to all of this. As the costs increase paper outlines, road construction price inflation has doubled since the previous estimates, no doubt largely due to the price of crude oil and inflation generally - old costing models no longer stack up, hence the huge cost rises when these are rationalised. Is it any wonder that Road Construction firms are moving to merge to weather the bad times, not to mention diversify*.

And another way of looking at this is in the context of the much vaunted (but plainly fucked) Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) bid in Greater Manchester - the projected maximum cost of the Bypass is 10% of the money in the TIF. The Longdendale Bypass plan is 5.7 km long - apparently, 'transforming public transport in Manchester' (their words, not ours) is only worth 57 km of roads like the bypass - or 3 years of UK funding for the Iraq war (it's a good job we don't think the TIF bid is the holy grail which will deliver the North West from climate change, like Liberal Bourgeois Greens do - clearly, crumbs for the masters table will suffice for some).

Finally, the top of this blog has the latest New Report from Channel M. At one point, the reporter, Richard 'monkeys might fly out of my' Butt, states that he can understand why people 'have been campaigning so hard and so long' for the road - making his point against a backdrop of freely-flowing traffic. Clearly, there's no need to get hold of Mike Flynn to wring a quote out of - he does the job himself.

*Carillion - the contractors for the bypass - bought Alfred McAlpine in December 2007. McAlpine had the contract for maintaining Sainsbury's supermarkets. What a coincidence then that Sainsbury's have now plainly stated their intentions to build a Large Superstore in Glossop...

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