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D for effort


The article on the provision of grade separation for the A500 'Potteries D road' (NCE July 21) might well persuade the casual reader that the designers of the regional scheme were remarkably short sighted. On behalf of all those so involved, including myself, please allow me to redress this impression with the following facts:

The section of the 'D' road concerned was promulgated as a principal road scheme attracting 75% grant under the specific grant rules then in force (no trunk roads in former county boroughs).

Financial control via the issue of grant was in the hands of the Department of Transport l The scheme was designed in the early 1970s and indicated that a dual three lane grade-separated facility was necessary. An economic assessment supported this decision.

The Department of Transport, with limited funds available for such proposals, ruled that scheme costs should not exceed £15M.

When tenders were received this figure was exceeded by some £2M and grant was withheld.

Frenetic re-design efforts followed to reduce costs by eliminating grade separation and the third lane of carriageways during 1974.

Fresh tenders were invited resulting in the target figure being met. The successful tenderer, Tarmac Civil Engineering, started work in December 1974 and the road was opened by the secretary of state, Will Rodgers, on 2 Nov 1977. The final cost after inflation and the settlement of claims was over £22M.

We were all well aware that an inferior scheme had had to be accepted, but at least the challenge of overcoming many technical difficulties during construction gave some satisfaction. I note that Nuttall's manager for the current project states 'technically there are few complexities'. This is not surprising - they were all resolved in 1974-77!

I am pleased that at last the road is to be converted to its original full design, albeit some 30 years later, but I shrink from estimating what that arbitrary £2M must have cost in terms of traffic delays and congestion over the years. I am also pleased that the present project is a Highways Agency - and therefore presumably Trunk Road - proposal. It should have been in the first place.

Jack Shelbourn, county surveyor, Staffordshire 1972-82, 5 Overhill Road, Stafford, ST17 0QA

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