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Anger builds over ring road delays

SERIOUS DELAYS on a crucial, long awaited motorway box around Manchester have left a local MP 'furious and appalled' and seeking urgent talks with the government.

Transport minister Glenda Jackson admitted delays of up to 46 weeks and cost overruns on three of the four M66 contracts needed to plug the 17km eastern gap in Manchester's outer motorway ring just before Christmas.

The information came in a response to a parliamentary question put by Labour MP for Denton and Reddish, Andrew Bennett. Bennett is concerned about the £100M, 9km long final section, which is now being tendered with a promised start date of late spring.

'But the government's ongoing roads review has yet to confirm the timing of this last section and I fear yet further delays to this essential route already 10 years overdue,' said Bennett. 'Without it traffic chaos will worsen and long planned major commercial developments could be cancelled all because of what I see as very lame excuses by the various contractors.'

Delays on the three existing contracts range from 35 to 46 weeks, Jackson confirmed. And NCE understands claims totalling over £30M have already been accepted by the Highways Agency.

The longest delay of 46 weeks on Alfred McAlpine/Amec's 6km £100M contract one centres on a shortage of suitably dry clay for a new 1km long dam wall at Audenshaw where the motorway will cut an existing reservoir and dam in half. Material will now be sourced from a redundant section of the dam but an extra muckshifting season is needed at an agreed extra cost of £10M.

Similar claims levels have been accepted on adjoining contracts two and four. 'All contracts run through difficult urban areas and faced previously unknown ground factors,' said HA project manager Steve Edwards.

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