The Military Road, which could remain open until 2038, under the highways PFI.Picture by Robin Crossley.
THREE of the Island’s most unstable stretches of road, including the iconic Military Road, should remain open until 2038.
According to a council statement issued yesterday (Monday) long-term engineering solutions are to be included in the multi-million pound Highways PFI that will mean highways including the Military Road, Bouldnor Road and the Undercliff at Niton should remain open until at least 2038 when the contract ends.
A spokesman said "The commitment to solving the geotechnical problems that have caused some of the most difficult transport issues the council faces are highlighted in a report on the PFI scheme due to be discussed by the authority's cabinet next Tuesday.
"The report published also highlights other services that will be included in the scope of the PFI over and above the upgrading the 818 kilometres of the Island's publicly adopted highways network.
"This includes the replacement of its near 12,000 streetlights with low energy bulbs while the scheme will also include maintaining and upgrading all footways, footpaths and cycleways, 209 bridges and 621 retaining walls, drainage, street furniture, signs, street nameplates and road markings, traffic signals, grass cutting and street maintenance winter maintenance and highways emergencies.
"The contract will also include all CCTV cameras that are on the highway network and these will be linked into a central control room that will also provide around the clock coverage of the approaches to Yarmouth Harbour bridge to allow it to be opened remotely should the need to do so arise at times other than those agreed with the harbour master.
"The council currently spends around £8.3 million providing all these services.
"Under the PFI that contribution will be around £7m a year."
At a special meeting next Tuesday cabinet members will be asked to a endorse the PFI-bidder chosen by the council's project board.
Two companies are in the running Vinci Ringway, which includes Eurovia Roadstone — the company behind asphalt plant plans for Cowes — and the Wight Highways Partnership, led by Colas.
They will ratify the details of the project scope in a final business case. This will be submitted to the Department for Transport and the HM Treasury for final approval.
Cllr Edward Giles, Isle of Wight Council cabinet member responsible for highways, transport and waste, said he was delighted the procurement process was nearing. Work on the roads is due to start next April.
He said: "All of us who use it know that the Island's roads network requires massive investment to bring it up to the standards we all want."
"The highways PFI will finally bring the investment required and will do so in a way that provides excellent value for council tax payers. Through months of detailed negotiation with bidders we have secured a contract that will mean we will be able be providing more services at a higher specification but at less cost to the council.
"I am sure most people will welcome that both as road users and as council tax payers."
The majority of the money required to undertake the highways PFI will be in the shape of a £260 million Government grant — money that does not have to repaid.
The council's overview and scrutiny committee has agreed not to use it's call-in powers regarding next Tuesday's decision due to Isle of Wight Council fears it could lead to costly delays in the project.
PFI project director Jay Jasundara had warned last week that if the decision was called-in it could lead to the need to refresh lending terms offered by the preferred bidder, which could push up costs.
Committee chairman Vanessa Churchman said today (Tuesday): "If I didn't disallow the call-in it would mean the full business case could not go up to government, because of the time scales.
"I think the Island would go beserk if we stopped the PFI process, we have gone to far down the PFI road now."