Barnsley’s Market Gate bridge project 'has become a joke' after costs spiral says opposition councillor

The leader of Barnsley’s Liberal Democrat group says the council’s Market Gate Bridge project has ‘become a joke’ after costs have almost doubled.

Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 11:35 am
Updated Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 1:01 pm

BMBC yesterday announced that work would begin on the long-delayed bridge next month, and say the cost has now reached £9.7m – almost double the initial £5m budget.

The council say the extra cost for the project includes ‘professional fees and sewer diversion work’, as well as ‘further public realm and highway improvements at both ends of the bridge’.

The leader of the council’s main opposition group says the cost is going to be ‘a real kick in the teeth for the residents of Barnsley’.

The leader of the council's main opposition group says the cost is going to be "a real kick in the teeth for the residents of Barnsley".

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Work to begin on £9m town centre bridge to replace Jumble Lane Crossing

Councillor Hannah Kitching, leader of Barnsleys Lib Dem group and councillor for Penistone West told the local democracy reporting service: “I think the whole Market Gate Bridge project has become a joke, to be honest.

“The council has been hell bent on pursuing what looks to me like a vanity project.”

Coun Kitching added that the news that the bridge will open in Summer 2023 is an ‘unacceptable amount of time’, and added that he cost is a ‘real kick in the teeth’ for Barnsley residents amid a backdrop of rising living costs.

“[There are] always cuts for residents. Hard decisions for residents, cuts in services, increasing bills, but there’s always money for a town centre vanity project.”

Where has the money for the project come from?

The initial £5m funding was to be split 50/50 between BMBC and Network Rail, who wanted to close the original level crossing on health and safety grounds.

In October 2018, the cost had risen to £5.6m, which council leader Sir Steve Houghton said was due to the bridge having to be ‘realigned’ at a different angle.

Network Rail will contribute £2m, and the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority has agreed to contribute £4.8m.

Barnsley Council will fund the remaining £2.9m, as part of its town centre regeneration scheme.

The Jumble Lane crossing, which was to be a temporary solution when it was erected in 2019, has been the source of much disdain from football fans, who have to go around Schwabish Gmund way to get to Oakwell on match days when the bridge is closed.

Why has the bridge been so delayed?

Network Rail first approached the council to discuss closing the existing Jumble Lane crossing in 2013, and plans for the new bridge were unveiled in January 2018.

Network Rail agreed to pay £2.5m on the on the condition that it was built by Spring 2019.

The council say that the selected contracter, NMCN, fell into administration within days of the contract being signed, and the transfer of the contract o the new contractor has been ‘complex’.

The process of transferring the contract to the new contractor – engineering and construction company Keltbra – began in October and is now complete.