Road contractors `quit'
Newbury bypass in jeopardy as protests add to building costs

The Guardian January 20 1996

Alex Bellos

SUB-CONTRACTORS were withdrawing from bids to build the Newbury bypass and this was putting the project in jeopardy, it was claimed yesterday.

Companies applying for the main contract to build the controversial road say the large protests have already caused some of their sub-contractors to withdraw, according to trade journal Construction News.

The six construction companies competing for the road were having to add 20 million to their original bid estimates of 60 million to cover potential delay.

A bidder told the paper: My impression is that subbies don't want the job. Another said: I'm not sure the local people are keen on the scheme and I get a feeling of a change in its political worth. Put that with the possibility of a high tender price and I'm not sure it will go ahead.

The deadline for the tenders is the end of February, and the Highways Agency will anounce the winner two months later. The agency said it had been given no indication that the contractors were having problems with their sub-contractors.

The 10-day-old protest yesterday attracted its most eminent supporters so far when the leaders of six of the country's most important environmental protection bodies visited the route.

It is the first time Greenpeace UK, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the World Wide Fund for Nature, Friends of the Earth, the Council for British Archaeology and the Wild Life Trust have joined at such a high level to fight a campaign.

Barbara Young, chief executive for the RSPB, said it showed the strength of the opposition.

We have 900,000 members. There will be some who think we should not get involved. But I think it is worth the rist. Unless we demonstrate to the public and the Government that building more roads is not the answer they will carry on doing so.

Blackwell's, the company contracted to clear the nine-mile route before the main contractor is appointed, made good progress yesterday. About 100 yeards of trees were cut before the chainsaws stopped at a protesters' camp.