Inflation has forced Devon County Council to make amendments to the scope of work of its A361 North Devon Link Road improvement project and pay the contractor a higher price.

The entire construction programme consists of several contracts and Devon County Council awarded the design and build contract to Alun Griffiths in November 2020.

The project involves the widening of 7.7km single carriageway between Portmore roundabout near Barnstaple and Filleigh Cutting, which is situated north of South Molton. It also includes four junction improvements as well as upgrades to bridges and underpasses.

The £67M improvement programme, the vast majority of which is funded by the Department for Transport (DfT), was costed back in 2019.

“The unexpected coronavirus pandemic, which has had and still is having a dramatic impact on businesses, followed by the unforeseen rise in costs of materials and energy compounded by the war in Ukraine, inflation, and rising interest rates, and £67M no longer buys as much in 2022 as it did in 2019,” said the council.

According to the council, inflation has led to cost hikes of up to 25% for certain aspects of the works. The council approached DfT for additional funding, but the government department said they couldn’t provide more funding for the project.

In response to the increased costs, the council opted for a “relatively modest” reduction in the scope of the works outlined in the original plan. This resulted in savings to the contractor of around £4.7M.

The amendments in the scope of the works include: a removal of the approximately 1.5km overtaking section between Portmore and Landkey junctions, removal of the requirement to improve the Bishop Tawton roundabout and removal of the requirement to replace permanent fencing on site.

The council has also agreed to a 13% overall increase in the price paid to the contractor compared to the original deal agreed in November 2020. The contract value now stands at £50.9M.

Works on the project are expected to be completed in 2024.

A project on another part of the A361 has been put on hold because of the rising costs. Procurement for the second phase of construction for a new junction on the A361 North Devon Link Road in Tiverton has been pulled as the local council seeks funds to match inflationary cost increases.

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By Samy