Tour de France: Estimates of Grand Départ cost ‘short by £2.3m’

Le Caravan on Cote de Chateauneuf-Grasse Cat 3 climb above Nice on Stage 5 of the 2013 Tour de France.  3 July 2013. Picture Bruce Rollinson
Le Caravan on Cote de Chateauneuf-Grasse Cat 3 climb above Nice on Stage 5 of the 2013 Tour de France. 3 July 2013. Picture Bruce Rollinson

The cost of marshalling and managing the Yorkshire Grand Départ of the 2014 Tour de France has been underestimated by more than £2m, a damning new report has revealed.

The soon-to-be-sealed contract for “event production” for stages one and two of July’s event – which includes arrangements for traffic management, stewards, toilets, barriers, medical support and signage on the first day of the Tour from Leeds to Harrogate and the second day from York to Sheffield – is worth almost £4.5m.

However that is £2.3m more than originally budgeted for, and has left bosses scraping around to plug the shortfall just 107 days before the global showpiece cycling race kicks off in Leeds.

An internal report insists the prices being paid are “competitive” – but admits parties involved “did not understand the scope of the event” and grossly underestimated the amount of resources needed.

The revelations – which emerged on the eve of the publication of a separate progress report by TDF Hub 2014 Ltd, a company set up to deliver the Grand Depart, have now led to a complete re-evaluation of costs.

The report adds: “The original estimate did not take account of the requirement to transport resources around Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Rochdale and due to the distances involved and the rural locations involved, the rates for resources has significantly increased.”

The report stresses the original estimates were made before the formation of TDF Hub, which, oversees a total budget of £27m, made up of contributions from the Government, the Sport UK quango and 11 partner councils.

The £11m total contribution from those councils is being managed and underwritten by Leeds City Council, which is overseeing the Yorkshire legs and is contributing £3.6m itself.

A recent bidding war saw the two competing firms for the event management contract submit tenders “significantly over” the budget of £2.177m. The report recommends the contract is still awarded to a firm called WRG, at a price of £4,475,860.89, but even the cheaper bid was £1.93m over the estimate. The report also lays out an emergency action plan to “alleviate the gap”.

A spokesman for the TDF Hub said: “It is important to stress we are some weeks off before the final cost is determined. We are working hard with local authorities to bring the costs down whilst ensuring a safe and secure event. As is usual with an event of such large scale and complexity, budget pressures rise and fall, with some costs proving higher than expected. We are now looking at all budgets, including those which are likely to underspend, with the aim of balancing out the overall position.”

A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: “As with any project on the scale of the Tour de France, it is entirely normal to experience changes in budget requirements.

“We anticipate with continuing prudent financial management... an event to remember will be delivered within the original budget.”

A Harrogate Borough Council spokesman said: “Leeds City Council have been leading the procurement of various matters on behalf of the local authorities involved in the delivery of the Tour de France. Discussions are on-going as to how the costs of the procured activities are to be allocated amongst partners and then each council will need to make funding decisions. This process is still underway and therefore it is premature to comment further.”