Cash threat to Newbury bypass

Contractors may pull out of the bidding for the controversial pounds 100m Newbury bypass because the Highways Agency cannot afford to pay for it all at once. The agency has told contractors that payments for construction work will be staggered over three years with a limit of pounds 18m in the first year.

One industry source said: "Newbury bidders are effectively being told that any work done above pounds 18m will be paid late. No contractor will slow work down if it is going well, just to stay within that target." The deadline for bids is today.