National Highways overpaid by £300,000 for A45 bridge crash repair – but will it get the money back?

The bridge was damaged when a Mercedes crashed into the Higham Road Bridge

By Alison Bagley
Monday, 28th March 2022, 3:29 pm
Updated Wednesday, 30th March 2022, 3:46 pm

Delayed repairs to a damaged bridge on the A45 near Rushden saw National Highways overpay by £300,000 for work, a freedom of information request has revealed.

In December 2016 a parapet over the railway on the A45 between Rushden and Irchester had been damaged in an accident involving a Mercedes-Benz E-Class car.

A temporary barrier, approximately 100m long, was installed by National Highways (formerly Highways England) contractor Amey and left for over two years until permanent repairs were made as part of a larger Network Rail upgrade scheme – the bridge spans the Midland Main Line.

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The A45 Higham Road Bridge in 2018 showing the damage to the parapet

In 2018, National Highways paid Amey’s £440,294.69 repair bill and then sought to recover the monies from the Mercedes owner’s insurance company.

After Claims Management & Adjusting (CMA) investigated the claim, the bill was reduced by 70 per cent to £131,000.

CMA’s managing director, Philip Swift, said: “We deal with overstated road incident claims every day, but this is an especially egregious example.

"We have repeatedly warned National Highways that its checks aren’t robust enough and its contractors are taking advantage.

The A45 Higham Road Bridge with the barrier

"This case was another long battle. Again, National Highways tried and failed to have our freedom of information requests dismissed as vexatious. Again, we’ve proved sky high costs claimed by a National Highways contractor to be outrageously excessive.

"We’ve done as much as we can. It’s now up to National Highways and the Government Legal Department to decide what to do about the amount paid to Amey.”

Following CMA’s intervention, Government Legal Department (GLD) appointed an independent quantity surveyor agreeing that ‘there is nothing that we have reviewed that could justify a cost of £276,359.77 that Highways England state has been paid out’.

The cost incurred by Amey was for the provision of traffic management at the location for three years during which time the carriageway was reduced and a speed limit put in place.

The A45 Higham Road Bridge in 2021 after the repairs

National Highways head of service delivery, Colin Lowther, said temporary roadworks were put in place to help keep motorists safe until Network Rail could being work in January 2019.

He said: “Given the complexity of the repair work the roadworks remained at the location until Network Rail carried out work three years later.

“Amey did not overcharge for the management of roadworks and the figure paid to them was incurred and paid in accordance with the contract.

“We have robust processes in place to ensure that costs can always be accounted for and in this instance we sought the advice of an independent quantity surveyor as part of our green claims procedure to help resolve the matter with the customer.”

An Amey spokesman said: “Amey is not aware of the nature of the claim against the driver's insurance and as such it cannot comment on the claim. However, Amey was instructed to provide traffic management at the site for an extended period of time to ensure the safety of motorists until Network Rail could carry out upgrade works. As such, the work instructed to Amey is different both in scope and in time to that considered by the quantity surveyor for the insurance claim and is acknowledged as being different within the quantity surveyor’s report.”