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SVM cleared of British Library delays

MECHANICAL AND electrical designer SVM has been cleared of blame for damage to 3,000km of cabling that caused severe delays to the controversial British Library project and cost more than £40M to put right.

SVM had been sued for damages topping £20M by the Department of National Heritage - now the Department of Culture, Media & Sport - after its insurers paid out £43.7M to electrical contractor Balfour Beatty in 1995.

This claim was later cut to £8.4M, but in the High Court on 30 July Judge Bowsher threw out the claim and awarded costs against the Department and third parties BB and Laing Management.

Arguments over the complex wiring on the project date back to the early 1990s. Many cables were found to have damaged insulation, and needed to be replaced or have extra circuit breakers installed to protect against short circuits. The DNH's insurers eventually made the payment to BB to get the work completed, then initiated legal action against SVM to recover some of the cost.

In court it was alleged by the plaintiff that the main cause of the cable damage was SVM's choice of inadequately sized lid-down trunking. This was said to have caused friction burns as cable were pulled through.

But in his 148 page judgment, the judge ruled that the main cause of the damage was bad workmanship by a small number of BB operatives and inadequate supervision by construction manager LM.

SVM chief executive Michael Carver said on Tuesday: 'We feel completely vindicated. We told our clients who was responsible, and this has been confirmed by the judge.'

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