THE final cost of Blackburn’s problem-plagued bus station spiralled by more than two thirds to £8.4million, it has emerged.

The initial cost estimate for the flagship project in the town centre was £4.7m but string of problems, including replacing the original contractors Thomas Barnes Group of Bury with Eric Wright Construction, saw its opening delayed by 16 months from December 2014 to May 1 2016.

Now it has been confirmed the final price of the bus station on Ainsworth Street rocketed by £3.7m to £8.4m as a result of difficulties during its construction.

The final outturn cost was calculated two years ago and included in Blackburn with Darwen Council’s next series of annual accounts.

It was revealed this week by The Taxpayers Alliance after a Freedom of Information request to the council.

Borough finance and legal staff are still trying to recovered a £400,000 bond placed with a independent financial institution in case of problems by the council and Thomas Barnes Group (which want into administration in December 2015 four months after being replaced) to offset part of the cost increase.

After Eric Wright came on board checks and upgrades of work were undertaken inflating the total end price.

The Alliance's Lancashire co-ordinator Keiran Neild-Ali said: “Blackburn’s big bus blunder is bound to drive local taxpayers up the wall.”

Cllr John Slater, leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Tory opposition group, said: “It is an absolute failure as they cannot budget control.”

On completion Eric Wright, founder of the construction company which completed the project, branded it the ‘Harrods of Bus Stations’ but in recent weeks the Lancashire Telegraph has reported on concerns over a crack which appeared on the floor of the station just weeks after a glass door panel had to be repaired.

Cllr Phil Riley, Blackburn with Darwen Council’s regeneration boss, said: “The original choice of Thomas Barnes was perfectly reasonable because they had delivered similar projects in various parts of the North West.

“Unfortunately for various reasons this did not turn out to be the case in Blackburn which left the council with no option but to change contractors which resulted in the overspend.

“The initial cost estimate was £5m but the final additional cost reflects that fact that the council had to change the construction company midway through the project which obviously added to the final amount.

“This was acknowledged throughout the process and the final figure has been publicly available for some time.

“We are incredibly proud of the bus station which has won several awards, and travelling into Blackburn town centre a much more pleasant experience than before.”

Mr Neild-Ali said: “Not only has the council failed to be open and honest about the true cost of the project, it has also lumbered taxpayers with the cost of fixing the bus station for years to come."

Cllr Slater said: “This is endemic of the Labour-run council that is costing the taxpayers money and it is an absolute failure as they cannot budget control. If they were in the private sector they would be sacked. Cllr Riley is trying to sugarcoat a bungling attempt to conceal the real cost of their folly.”