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The historic structure that connects the Capital’s Old and New Towns has been under repair since 2018 after the council identified “multiple structural and safety defects”.
Whilst access for pedestrians and northbound traffic has been maintained, the major works have caused significant disruption to the city center link and has so far cost Edinburgh City Council £36.421 million.
And now that figure is set to rise further after councilors agreed to an extra £25,760m for the project to fill a funding gap, re-allocating cash from future years’ roads and transport budgets.
This now takes the new total cost to £62,181m — over £40m more than originally budgeted by the council for the refurbishment
A report to the Governance, Risk and Best Value Committee on Tuesday (March 8) suggested that the work could incur more set backs noting a risk of “continued timeline slippage”.
It marked the likelihood of more delays as ‘high’ and stated any future financial pressures could impact other infrastructure projects or require budget cuts in other spending areas.
During the meeting Provost Frank Ross asked if the additional funding agreed “effectively eliminates” the risk of push backs beyond 2024.
Paul Lawrence, Director or Place for Edinburgh City Council said: “As a result of the decision that members took associated with the capital budget, that does set aside the resources required to complete the project.
“Obviously we are keeping that as red effectively, Councillor Ross, as a precaution because there will be a range of issues as you discussed.”
Initially planned to be finished by next year, completion of the refurbishment was pushed back to 2024 after “significantly more deterioration” was discovered in parts of the bridge that had not been inspected since its construction 120 years ago.
The council also blamed delays on restrictions brought in during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Work being carried out by construction teams on the North Bridge includes a grit blast and repaint of all structural steelwork, improvements to pavements and underdrainage and installation of ‘structural health monitoring systems’.
In addition, they will restore and repair the King’s Own Scottish Borderers War Memorial, located on the east plinth of the bridge’s south pier.
Councilor Lesley Macinnes said that the need for additional work had been identified during detailed investigations.
The Transport and Environment Convener, said: “This is an extremely complex project to restore and maintain one of Edinburgh’s most iconic structures, which also forms an essential route from the north to the south of the city.
“Due to this complexity, and the historic nature of the project, ongoing, detailed investigations to explore the full extent of work have been carried out since access was gained, which over time have identified additional requirements. This has resulted in an increase in the project’s budget.
“The completion of North Bridge’s restoration is essential for the safety of the public, for travel to and from the city and to Edinburgh’s unique heritage site, and the funding pressure has been addressed as part of the wider budget-setting process.”
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.