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Guided bus project gets back on track

CONTRACTS - CAMBRIDGE

A STALLED multi-million pound transport project in Cambridge is back up for grabs after being given the green light last month.

Cambridgeshire County Council's plan for a guided busway has been dogged by a series of funding problems and planning issues ever since it was drawn up over two years ago.

Last month the project received final planning approval from the Government and now council officials are calling in documents from the three successful bidders from the first stage tender process.

Birse, Balfour Beatty and Nuttall have all been working up bids and will return tenders later this month.

The original list also featured May Gurney, Carillion and Kier but uncertainty over the project's future led to firms pulling out. One bidder said: 'Second stage bids had to be held back but now they are being returned with a contract award anticipated in April.' The scheme will see buses travel on a guideway along the disused railway line from St Ives, north of the city, into Cambridge itself. The guideway will also continue to Addenbrooke's Hospital and a park and ride pick-up point.

More than 25 km of guideways will be built along the St Ives and Bedford railway lines, with the council arguing that the guideways will ease traffic on congested roads.

But contractors are still sweating on whether the scheme will get all the funding it needs. The Department of Transport had originally pledged £65 million but this still needs to be secured.

A council official admitted: 'We are doing all we can to deliver the project as quickly as possible but we are now in the hands of the Government in terms of how quickly they can give us the money.' Council chiefs want work to start next winter and the system to be operational towards the end of 2008.