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Heysham M6: cost savings don't add up

Former campaigner's picture

24 January: Forgive me for writing another blog about major scheme business cases. But something is rotten in the county of Lancashire.

Lancashire County Council have sent off their 'best and final offer' submission to the Department for Transport. They claim to have saved about £16 million by reducing the street lighting and altering the depth of some of the cuttings.

But I can't see how what they're planning will work, let alone save any money. Take their lighting proposals. The argument for lighting was quite simple: without them, the road wouldn't be safe to drive on.

Don't ask me, ask Lancashire CC. Their submission to the public inquiry explained:

"It is proposed to light the full length of the road. The junctions must be lit on safety grounds, and because of the limited distance between junctions, it is also necessary on safety grounds to light the sections of road between the junctions."

So all of a sudden these lights aren't necessary. Either we've all become better at seeing in the dark, or car lights have improved dramatically since 2007... or LCC are cutting corners to save a few quid.

Then there's the cuttings. LCC has proposed making them shallower, to reduce the volume of material which would have to be dumped somewhere: "The main savings are generated by reducing the amount of excavation for the scheme (which would have required off site disposal)."

But the Heysham M6 was cleverly designed so that all the soil would be reused. LC'sC Environmental Statement, 2005:

"It is anticipated that the vast majority of vehicular movements would be contained within the site boundaries, with all the excavated material being reused to form embankments, retained embankments, landscape mounds, bunds, false cuttings and to mitigate against adverse effects by regrading."

So if there's not going to be any excess soil, then why the need for shallower cuttings? And more importantly, how will reducing the depth of the cuttings save LCC any money, if they're not saving on the cost of off site disposal?

These two changes are meant to save LCC £16 million, but neither of them checks out. Either LCC was being misleading when it published the Environmental Statement and its evidence at the public inquiry, or its being misleading now.

Either way, it doesn't say much for quality of their funding bid.