LITTLE more than 3 million separated the six contractors in the race to win the Newbury
bypass in Berkshire.
Costains winning bid of 73.7 million was only some 500,000 cheaper than that of the second-placed contractors price, according to sources close to the project.
It is understood that only about 500,000 separated the rest of the contestants as well, with the highest-priced bid coming in at 77 million.
One industry insider said: With so few road projects to bid for these days, all schemes are bound to be very keenly fought, but we were all surprised by the fierceness of this contest.
Other contractors pricing the bypass were Tarmac, Amec, Alfred McAlpine, Mowlem and Kier/Hochtief joint-venture.
According to the Highways Agency, earthmoving work at Newbury is expected to start next month or in August, with construction work proper
getting under way in September.
But the project could be delayed yet again if environmentalists succeed in getting a judicial hearing into the scheme, on the grounds that the bypass would destroy the habitat of a rare species of snail and would run foul of EC habitat directives.
The long-delayed bypass first came out to tender in June 1994, when it carried an official price tag of 46.4 million.
Since then, contractors have spent an estimated 500,000 on working up bids for the disrupted scheme on three separate occasions.