A358 under threat of escalating costs
The centrepoint of our road system in Somerset has long been the M5 and A303. Hence the importance of the dualling of the A303 in Somerset and the upgrade of the A358 to a dual carriage way road between Ilminster and the M5 junction 25.
A report published today by the National Audit Office tells a story of delays and escalating costs.
Work on the A303 between Sparkford and Ilminster is already 4 months late and the costs estimate has risen from £120m to £171m. Work is expected to start next March and be open to traffic by June 2023.*
However the situation with the A358 is much worse. The current estimate of a start date of “summer” 2021 is based on the assumption that a decision on the final route would be made in Autumn 2018. We are already 6 months behind that date with nothing yet from the Highways Agency. The open to traffic estimate, again assuming the route was decided last autumn, has now slipped to summer 2024.
The cost for the A358 work though has nearly doubled. From an initial estimate of £251m to a current estimate of £452m.*
Obviously the delay to the start dates is disappointing and a great set back for the local economy. However the increase in costs is much more serious.
Although these will largely be costs incurred by central government and not our local councils, the report published today by the National Audit Office is looking at value for money. And the larger the overruns anticipated, the more each project is at risk of being cancelled by a government that does not have an unlimited amount of resources to play with.
*source National Audit Office report: improving the A303 between Amesbury and Berwick Down published 20th May 2019