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COSTS of the proposed Melksham bypass have skyrocketed from £146million up to £238million, figures from the Department for Transport reveal.
When Wiltshire Council put the scheme out for public consultation from June to August last year, it said, “If approved, and depending on the details of the final scheme, the construction costs are expected to be in the region of £146million (based on 2019 prices), and there would be contingency and inflation costs.”
This is for the council’s preferred option – the 10c route – to the east of the town.
But the Department for Transport have now said their current estimate of the total scheme cost is nearly £100million more, at over £238million.
Wiltshire Council would have to pay 15% of this – over £36million, with the Department for Transport funding the rest.
Freedom of Information request
The costs of the scheme have been supplied by the Department for Transport following a Freedom of Information request by local environmental campaigner, Phil Chipper who said, “It’s very difficult to get information out of Wiltshire Council; that’s why I went to Department for Transport.
“What is clear is that the costs have shot up to £238million – way beyond the figures used by Wiltshire Council for their public consultation last year.
“These costs only relate to a bypass around Melksham; to carry the work through to the Dorset coast would be astronomical, particularly for the parts beyond Shaftsbury where the A350 will need a massive upgrading.
“Also, these costs will only rise due to the fact that they are only estimates, and politically, estimates are always pitched low, so as not frighten everyone off; hence why so many projects go ‘over budget’.
“There can be no sane argument to pursue this project. Imagine how many hospitals, dentists, doctors, nurses, schools, teachers, etc this money could buy.
“The bypass project is really about creating a new eastern boundary for Melksham to allow for massive housing expansion. If it was about improving the A350 and road links, then a Westbury bypass would be first.”
The bypass will only go ahead with Department for Transport backing and its decision, which was expected over the summer, has been deferred until March next year.
The decision will depend on the outcome of the DfT’s ‘M4-Dorset Coast study’ which is looking into strategic road connectivity from the M4 to the Dorset Coast. The A350 is just one of the routes being considered.
A DfT spokesperson said, “There are a number of potential alternative corridors that are being assessed, including the A350. If shown to perform better than the existing A36/ A46 corridor, the study may recommend the possible adoption of one or more alternative strategic corridors and where future investment may be needed on them. The study is ongoing and is now expected to report in early 2023.”