June 20 2013 Latest news:
by DAN GRIMMER
Saturday, July 21, 2012
Council bosses left baffled by a problem with the roof of Norwich’s £5m bus station which left its main building water damaged have warned bus users they could face even more disruption before it is fixed.
The bus station only opened seven years ago and was hailed as a state-of-the-art landmark for the city, but the ticket office, toilets and cafe there have been shut for more than a month because of a leak in the futuristic-looking canopy roof.
Officers at Norfolk County Council admitted they will not know what has gone wrong with the structure until they dismantle the suspended ceiling.
Attempts to do that have been scuppered a number of times because of rain, but with a better forecast for tomorrow, the intention is to shut the station to carry out that work and make a short-term fix.
But council bosses said, while that ought to mean the ticket office, cafe and toilets can re-open on Monday, a more permanent repair could lead to more closures in the future.
The council added that, until they establish what the problem is, they do not know how much it will cost to put it right or whether taxpayers will have to pick up the bill.
Tracy Jessop, assistant director travel and transport at Norfolk County Council, said: “The bus station is only seven years old, so we will want to find out exactly what went wrong, and why.
“Once we have got those answers we will be better placed to decide how to make a permanent repair to the roof. The next question is who should meet the cost.
“Again, once we have a clearer picture of what happened and what will be required to prevent a recurrence, we will consider whether there is scope for the cost of repairs being covered by warranty or insurance.
“There is likely to be further disruption when the permanent repair is carried out, but it’s too early to say how much. We will of course be trying to keep any further closures to a minimum.”
The loss of business for National Express and the cafe based in the building since the leak was discovered on Saturday, June 16, could also mean the council, as landlords, has to pay them compensation.
Ms Jessop said: “We do understand that this long closure has been particularly hard on the cafe. Discussions have already been held and will continue, with a view to ensuring that the cafe continues to provide a service that bus passengers appreciate.
“We will, of course, also be talking to National Express, who run their ticket and information desk from the building.”
The county council has tried on a number of times to get its contractors onto the roof to establish what the problems are, but wet weather has thwarted those closes.
Ms Jessop said: “It has been a very frustrating time for bus passengers, who have been denied the normal facilities since the middle of June, and we are very sorry about that.
“It has also been frustrating for us, because four times bad weather forced us to abandoned planned closures of the bus station for work on the roof.
“We wanted this work carried out on a Sunday, if possible, because it would have far less impact on bus passengers and the city centre.
“Unfortunately dry Sundays have been rare this summer - although we are optimistic that the work will go ahead tomorrow.”
The bus station was designed by NPS Property Consultants, an arms length company of the county council, with Bluestone the principal contractor.
Tim East, spokesman for environment, roads, transport and waste for the opposition Liberal Democrat group at County Hall, said: “I wonder if this is an issue with contemporary design? There was a similar problem in the early days of the police headquarters at Wymondham where the roof was leaking.
“When it comes to restitution and a claim, then if it is a design flaw, then it will have to be against NPS, so the council will effectively be claiming against itself.
“It also means inconvenience to passengers. The whole point of a state of the art bus station to encourage people to leave motor cars at home and if it’s not open then that is a disincentive for them to do that.”
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