The world’s longest guided busway was completed today – 18 months behind schedule and £8million over budget.
Cambridge County Council’s 26 mile transport link from Huntingdon to Trumpington has already cost taxpayers £116m and was due to open in February 2009.
Workmen fitted the final 15 metre section of the track yesterday making it the longest in the world.
However, the guided busway will still not open until January next year because of ongoing rows between the council and contractors.
Bob Menzies, Cambridgeshire County Council’s head of busway delivery, said work is continuing to fix ”six track defects” on the northern section and ”unresolved issues” on the southern stretch.
He said: ”Although it is good news the final piece of the track has been laid, no one is celebrating as BAM Nuttall has still not completed the job.
”All Cambridgeshire residents want to see is the contractor completing the work so buses can finally start running as BAM Nuttall are already 18 months late delivering the project.”
Cambridgeshire County Council blames contractors BAM Nuttall for the delays which have seen the project go £8million over budget.
Once the line is working regular buses will use priority lanes in urban areas then transform into a train to use 16 miles of guided track.
It will link Huntingdon railway station with park and rides, commuter villages, Cambridge railway station and Addenbrookes Hospital and carry six million passengers a year.
Faults on the line that need to be resolved before the busway officially opens include a car park and cycleway that flood, and a leaky viaduct.
Mr Menzies confirmed total damages due to be deducted from the company for late delivery has passed £8 million.
Some £14,000 will be deducted from the total bill every day until the busway is completed.
The council is preparing to fix the defects itself once the track is complete, charging the cost to BAM Nuttall.
An independent public review will probe what has gone so badly wrong with the project.
Andy Campbell, managing director of Stagecoach Cambridgeshire, which will run many of the services on the busway, reckons the route is already usable.
Stagecoach has shelled out £3 million on special buses for the route and around £1 million in staffing and other costs.
Mr Campbell said: ”We would like to be running services, and the sooner the better.
”We’re intending to open the service relatively early next year, providing it opens, with a 10-minute frequency from St Ives to the city and 20-minute frequency from Trumpington.
”That is what was always planned but because of the lack of housing at Northstowe, and the limits on car parking at St Ives and Northstowe.
”We would have to review it after a few months of operation to see whether that’s the right level of service.”
The project was first suggested in 2001 to beat traffic jams in Cambridge city centre and congestion on the A14 and M11.
Successful guided busways are running across the UK and around the world including Australia, Canada, Germany, Bradford, Edinburgh and Leeds.