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Bechtel/PB under fire for Boston overrun


PROGRAMME MANAGERS Bechtel and Parsons Brinckerhoff have been criticised for not questioning the £875M overrun on Boston's Central Artery project by US Government investigators.

The US Federal Highway Administration investigation - published this week - also claims that the Bechtel/PB joint venture did not query the decision of client Massachusetts Turnpike Authority to withhold information about the cost overrun from the project's prime funder - the FHA.

While most of the responsibility for the overrun was levelled at the MTA, Bechtel and PB have been ordered to explain why they did not question the overspend. The cost of the project - the largest civils job in the US - ballooned from £3.6bn to £7.6bn (NCE 30 March).

The FHA report states: 'In practice the project management (provided by the MTA) and the Bechtel/PB joint venture became one entity. Bechtel/PB did not maintain an independent, objective role, but became part of the venture's loyalty to the Massachusetts Highway Department and the MTA, not the FHA.'

The report also warns that the cost of replacing Boston's elevated highway with an underground tunnel could rise by another £875M to £8.5bn.

The FHA is to restore its 'oversight role' on the project and 'establish reporting and verification procedures necessary to ensure accurate and full financial disclosures'.

The investigation could also have repercussions on future contracts between state clients and programme managers. The report states: 'The FHA will consider changes in its contractual relationships.'

The MTA and Bechtel/PB were unavailable for comment. Both programme managers are delivering Railtrack's £10bn major projects programme.

Damian Arnold

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