BLACKBURN’S £4.7million bus station has been hit by a major new delay and is expected to open by Christmas – a year later than originally planned.

Yesterday the council revealed lawyers had been called in over dispute between design and project managers Capita, main construction contractor Barnes Group of Bury and sub-contractors.


In recent days no workers had been seen working on the main bus station structure until a handful appeared yesterday afternoon.

Borough Tory group leader Mike Lee branded the handling of the scheme by the council scheme ‘a comedy of errors’ and cast doubt on the predicted completion date.

He is also concerned that council taxpayers may have to pick up a bill for the delay.

The council, Capita and Barnes are all remaining tight-lipped about the details of the dispute.

Leading members of the Labour group, which runs the council, declined to make any further comment about the dispute and it is understood that opposition leaders are in the dark.

It had been due to open by Christmas last year, but the timing was revised to January, and then to early spring and then to summer.

In April regeneration director Brian Bailey said it was on schedule to open next month.

However after repeated pressure from the Lancashire Telegraph, yesterday Blackburn with Darwen council produced a statement which said the high-tech terminus and interchange was now expected to open in December.

It also said a specialist London-based firm of legal and construction experts had been called in to resolve problems after stop-start delays on the project left borough chiefs ‘bemused’ and ‘concerned’.

There is now the prospect that one or both of the main contractors face financial penalties or being dismissed by the council. The dispute could also end up in the courts.

Blackburn and District Chamber of Commerce president Tony Duckworth branded the situation ‘an absolute disgrace’ and said it was costing town centre retailers much needed trade.

He said: “This key project for the town centre was promised for the beginning of the year and now we are told we might get is as a Christmas present. This latest delay is extremely disappointing.”

Coun Lee said: “I am very disappointed as are many pensioners and bus users who are suffering as a result.

“I just hope that the bus station is complete by Christmas and I am worried the council taxpayer may end up picking up a big bill.”

Sources close to the contract negotiations stressed that the project, part of the £40million Pennine Reach public transport scheme to speed up bus journeys Blackburn with Darwen and Hyndburn, would be finished by the end of the year and the council would not be liable for extra costs.

The council statement said: “The council is concerned that this project has not been progressed in accordance with its expectations and recognises the impact that this has on partners, stakeholders and service users in the town centre.

“The council is therefore having a full and frank exchange on the issues and concerns regarding the project with Capita and Barnes as the main contractor.

“In particular, the council is concerned at the relationships between the various parties working on the contract and the impact that has had on project delivery.

“We have commissioned a legal professional expert opinion and are looking at all available options to ensure that the project is completed as soon as possible and no later than completion of the neighbouring Cathedral Quarter project.”

The near-by Cathedral Quarter project is on track for completion in December.

Tom Barnes, director of Barnes Group, said: “Work is progressing on the new bus station in accordance with the contract and we continue to work with the Council and Capita on all relevant matters in connection with this project.”

A Capita spokesperson said: “Capita is a long-term strategic partner of Blackburn with Darwen Council, and we continue to work with the council and its contractors on the delivery of the Blackburn bus station.”

The borough council and Barnes hoped to have the 40-week project, which began in March last year, completed in time for Christmas 2014 The Ainsworth Street project has been dogged by delays and problems, including the discovery of unexpected drains and culverts and the fact that a subway from Salford to the old market site, on which the station is being built, had been filled solid.

Since the new year work on the bus station has been stop-start, with part of the specially-tailored glass panelling being applied before work stopped temporarily.

The latest delay has hindered other major schemes in the town centre regeneration including selling the top part of the market site, currently used as a temporary bus station, to a high quality retailer and could affect the completion date of the whole Pennine Reach scheme.

It is scheduled to cut bus journey times between Accrington, Darwen, Great Harwood and Blackburn town centres by between five and 10 minutes by April next year, It is planned to link two new £4million-plus bus stations in Blackburn and Accrington town centres with new roads and bus priority lanes , and bring new technology including London Transport Oyster-style travel cards.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Blackburn with Darwen Council are leading the Pennine Reach project, which is supported by £31.9m funding from DfT. We are aware of the delays to the completion of Blackburn Bus Station and are continuing to speak with the council about completing the project as soon as possible. Any implications for project costs are a matter for the council and contractors.”