Rugby Western Relief Road report to help improve Warwickshire County Council’s major projects

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A REVIEW into the delivery of the Rugby Western Relief Road has made a series of recommendations to improve Warwickshire County Council’s processes when managing major projects.

The county council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee examined the processes that led to delays in the scheme cost overruns, and has highlighted ways in which the authority can learn lessons from the project.

Among them, is the type of contract let for the project.

The ‘target cost contract’ selected at the time it was let was considered the best practice in the industry. The committee now recommends that these contracts should not be awarded by the council. It is also recommended that if there is a change in the parent company during a tender process that a detailed review of the contractor be carried out prior to award.

The report says that more design work should be undertaken before contracts are let and that this aspect should be entirely contracted to an external company. It adds that all major projects and programmes should also be overseen by an officer and member project board and portfolio holders should provide regular updates.

Cllr John Whitehouse, Chair of Warwickshire County Council’s Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: “The committee has made a number of key recommendations for the future management of large, complex projects undertaken by the council. These are lessons for the whole council to take on board.

“We propose that the recommendations are referred by cabinet to a full council meeting to enable the key changes to gain the widest possible support and allow all elected members to contribute their views.”

Cllr Alan Cockburn, Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment and Economy, said: “We welcome the recommendations from the committee so that we, as a council, can move forward and learn from the events of the past eight years.

“Although some of the problems might have been avoided, we did experience events outside of our control that added hugely to the overall costs. We have now learnt the lessons in respect of project and risk management of this type of contract.

“The report states that we significantly underestimated the likely cost and some of the risks associated of the project, however, adoption of the report’s recommendation will reduce the risk of this happening in the future.

Admittedly, there have been mistakes on the design side which have added to the cost, but these are a relatively small proportion of the overall increase in costs.

“However, all the costs paid to the contractor have been independently justified and the road itself has been a huge success since it opened, relieving some roads of almost 30 per cent of traffic.”

The Rugby Western Relief Road is 3.75 miles (6 kilometres) miles long and was built to relieve traffic congestion in and around Rugby caused by increased residential and industrial development. It opened to the public on September 10 last year. The multi-million pound scheme was constructed by Carillion and funded by the Department for Transport, Warwickshire County Council and developers.

Using the government’s cost-benefit ratio measuring methodology, for every £1 spent, the Western Relief Road is bringing £4.50 of benefit to the local economy.

The new road has significantly cut journey times and helped to mitigate environmental damage by reducing noise and air pollution within the town centre. It has also created better conditions for pedestrians, cyclists and other highway users and help to reduce the number of accidents.

A survey in October showed the road was used by an average of 12,000 vehicles each day and has alleviated traffic on other highways leading into the town centre. Bilton Road had seen a reduction in traffic of up to 28 per cent and 16 per cent less traffic is using Newbold Road. The expectation is that over time these figures will increase.