Thursday, January 31, 2008

2012 Aquatics Centre Costs Treble

An Olympian triumph of wishful thinking

The new Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics was originally "budgeted" at £75m. A few months ago we learned it had escalated to £150m. We now find it's likely to be £214m. That's a literal trebling, which even by the dire standards of public sector procurement is a real humdinger.

The problem? Ludicrous, Olympian, wishful... er... "thinking". The Olympic Delivery Authority's own chief executive, David Higgins, says:

"You couldn't pick a more difficult site. It's the main entry to the Olympic Park and the major roadway to the Stratford shopping centre, most of the major services to the site pass through it, it's the most contaminated part of the site. The power lines go underneath, the canal runs round it, we have found the most archaeological remains here and it's flood prone. In addition to all that you decide you want to build an iconic venue."

What clothead imbeciles would ever chose to do that?

Ah yes, we remember now. It was HM Government, ably assisted by the People's Ken- the very same "winning team" who are still in charge.

We've blogged the Aquatics Centre before (see here), reporting how, contary to all best practice procurement guidelines, there is just one bidder for the contract, Balfour Beatty. They've been demanding £250m, and although the commissars have reportedly beaten them down to £214m, we're asking ourselves what quid pro quos have been offered? And will it be the fixed price contract always promised?

Commissariat spinners are now busy assuring us that this latest overrun will not blow the overall £9.3bn budget. But that's only because they've axed the planned fencing centre altogether.

And remember, we're still four years off: there's plenty of time to see costs escalate much further from here.