The Report contains Major Inconsistencies and is based on Weak Evidence
The Department for Transport’s (DfT) executive agency the Highways Agency (HA) commissioned Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB) an at the time wholly owned subsidiary of the loss making UK construction company Balfour Beatty in November 2013 to “undertake a feasibility study on the A27 Corridor on behalf of the DfT[i]”.
West Sussex County Council (WSCC) were in the lead position lobbying Central Government for funding to make the A27 dual carriageway through all of the county, it was announced on 1st December 2014 that up to £350m had been allocated for the A27 Corridor[ii].
The DfT published the results of its Feasibility Study and the backup PB reports on 12thMarch 2015[iii].
What has been suggested
The reports suggest that Option A or the “Pink and Blue route” should be implemented at Arundel and that a four lane dual carriageway is driven through the present route of the A27 at Worthing and Lancing.
What does this mean at Arundel?
5.5km of new dual carriageway, from a rebuilt Crossbush junction, a new bridge will be built over the railway line, then another new bridge would cross the River Arun on, there would then be a grade separated junction over the Ford Road, similar to the junction in the Adur Valley, bridges would be constructed to carry the A27 over Tortington Lane and Binsted Lane East[iv], or more likely this means that the A27 will be a 26m wide elevated road spanning for the whole width of the Arun Valley and from Crossbush to the middle of Binsted woods, the route finishes with a grade separated junction near the Havenwood Park development. It is stated that the construction of this c3km Viaduct a bridge over the Arun Valley Railway, three grade separated junctions and new highway can be achieved for £188m.
What does this mean for Worthing?
Widening the A27 to 4 lanes carriageway through Worthing, improvements to the Salvington Hill intersection, Offington Corner roundabout, Grove Lodge roundabout, Sompting Road Lyons Way intersection, Busticle Road junction and Manor Road roundabout. It is recognised that this will require local restrictions / banned turning manoeuvres / stopping up side road approaches. There is also recognised that there will be an unfunded requirement to improve North-South connectivity in both Worthing and Lancing[v]. All this work can we are informed be achieved for £96.5m
The A27 has renowned pinch points on it Chichester, Arundel and Worthing, making the planning of journeys down the A27 corridor more reliable will of course bring economic and environmental benefits.
There have been various studies on the benefits that A27 improvement will bring, what is staggering is the difference between the answers.
WSCC commissioned the Consultants Atkins in 2013 to look at a scheme for solely on line improvements to the A27 through Chichester, Arundel and Worthing, this was in July 2013 projected to bring benefits with a NPV of £197.7 - £228.5m over 60 years[vi].
PB produced a report for Arun District Council (ADC) A27 Arundel Bypass Wider Economic Impact Study[vii], in March 2013, that has a preliminary estimated benefits total £741.4m, per annum just from building the Arundel Bypass.
PB in then in February 2015, state that the Present Value Benefits (PVB) of either of the Arundel Bypass options are £322.4m or £320.6m, it is unclear why the longer route, Option B has a slightly lower PVB[viii] it is also unclear and indeed unremarked on as to why PB are now saying that the fully discounted benefits of the Arundel bypass are less than half the annual benefit they promulgated for the Arundel Bypass two years previously.
PB state, again in February 2015, that at Worthing the PVB of the discarded Option A which is tunnels under the town is £1,001.3m, Option F that is pushing a dual carriageway through the present route is £540.8m whilst the benefit of Arundel Option A and Worthing Option F combined is said to be £927m, a synergy gain of £63.8m[ix].
It is unclear and unexplained as to why the tunnel solution Option A at Worthing and Lancing brings nearly twice the economic benefit of the online solution Option F, particularly when it is recognised that the majority of A27 journeys are within the county. It is also unclear if the PVB quoted for Option F takes into account the cost of the economic disruption during the construction phase.
The range of the figures quoted above certainly cast some doubt as to their validity, one message coming out of the figures is that whichever way you look at them the major benefit to the economic development of the country comes from an investment in Worthing.
The DfT accepted PB report states that even spending £50m on localised junction improvements at Worthing, their Option G, results in a PVB of £291.0m, the same quantum of benefit as the proposed c £200m investment at Arundel.
The message coming strongly through the PB report and local knowledge is that improving the flow of traffic at Worthing is the key to unlocking the economic benefits from A27 improvements.
Why is it then that PB recommend a scheme that will they recognise be difficult to build, create greater severance in Worthing, require a large number of houses to be purchased then demolished and require major, unfunded, investments in local transport links to work round the severance caused by the A27 improvements?
Why is it that PB in the same report recommend that a major scheme should be implemented at the cost of some £200m at Arundel, rejecting a far cheaper scheme as it will “increase severance” in Arundel Option C, slight double standards?
Are the Construction Costs believable?
Much has been made in the press about how a beautiful bridge could be built across the Arun Valley, pictures have even been published of the Millau Viaduct over the Tarn, this nearly 2.5km bridge cost Euro 400m, basically the whole budget for Sussex and the viaduct opened in 2004. It would thus seem unlikely that a beautiful bridge can be afforded.
WSCC in their Action Plan for the A27, were in 2012 prices prepared to spend £12.6m on junction improvements in Worthing, PB have raised the budget for this sort of work and some local widening to £50m, in their Option G, this suggests that c £35m is to be spent on localised widening. Localised widening is understood to mean compulsory purchase of specific houses their demolition and construction of new carriageway(s).
If the Option G costs of £50m are believed to be robust, it is very difficult to see how PB have managed to estimate the cost of Option F, online dualling at £96.5m. As described in the report Option F is a far bigger scheme than Option G, can it really be believed that all the necessary houses in the A27 corridor through Worthing and Lancing can be bought and the road constructed for £46.5m? It would seem to be a very big ask to do that.
Questionable Inclusions and Omissions in the reports
Ford Road Junction, a grade separated junction over a river must be an expensive construction project, yet it is in both of the Arundel Bypass options, there must be a good reason for the inclusion of this junction. The reports do not state what the cost of this grade separated junction will be nor does it state what the benefits of a Ford Road Junction will be, as traffic exiting the A27 at this junction will encounter well known pinch points at the Level Crossing and the narrow Ford Road.
The impact on traffic flows of the soon to be completed Felpham and North Bersted relief roads and the planned Lyminster Bypass are not mentioned in the reports, these high standard routes will change driver behaviour.
There is discussion in the PB reports[x] about the volumes of traffic on the A27 and how the Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) on certain parts of the A27 are above the design maximum, when other stretches are well within capacity, the answer to any question is a dual carriageway. This is not necessarily the case, there is the option of a wide Single Carriageway, in DfT speak a WS2 that has an AADT of up to 21,000[xi], which is well above the quoted traffic levels at both Arundel of 15,300 and Worthing of 17,800. Putting a road with a suitable capacity for the traffic that it is taking, when we know that traffic levels in the county are reducing, from robust DfT figures would seem an appropriate action. Building a 15m wide bridge for a WS2[xii] road is materially cheaper than building a 26m wide bridge for a Dual Carriageway.
In broad terms the £350m funding package obtained for the A27 corridor is materially less than that required to build a grade separated junction dual carriageway through the counties of East and West Sussex.
The PB report that has been accepted by the DfT has major inconsistencies in it: -
It is unclear why the major investment is to be made at Arundel
There are serious questions to be asked about the costs of the proposed Worthing scheme.
The economic benefits of the scheme as published seem to oscillate wildly, ranging from an NPV of c£200m for the whole corridor to over £700m a year for just the Arundel Bypass.
The PB report may well have been briefed to only come back with the answer of a dual carriageway, which is not necessarily the economically appropriate answer.
It is sad and concerning that a major investment decision has been it would seem made on such weak evidence.
[i] A27 corridor feasibility study report 1 of 3 :evidence report Paragraph 1.2.1
[iv] A27 corridor feasibility study report 3 of 3 :evidence report Paragraph 5.2.15
[v] A27 corridor feasibility study report 3 of 3 :evidence report Paragraph 6.4.1
[vi] https://www.westsussex.gov.uk/campaigns/a27-action/ Penultimate page
[vii] http://www.arun.gov.uk/planning-policy-transport Paragraph 8.1.3
[viii] A27 corridor feasibility study report 3 of 3 :evidence report Figure 5.1
[ix] A27 corridor feasibility study report 3 of 3 :evidence report Figure 6.1
[x] A27 corridor feasibility study report 1 of 3 :evidence report Paragraph 4.7.2
[xi] Design Manual Roads Bridges, Vol 5 Section 1 Part 3 Table 2.1.
[xii] Design Manual Roads Bridges, Vol 6, Section 1 Part 2 Figure 4-3a