THE cost of repairing Weymouth’s crumbling ha-rbour walls has almost doubled to nearly £4million.

Council chiefs are facing a race against time to fix the quay so Condor Ferries can restart its cross Channel sailings next spring.

But the bill for the work, originally estimated at £2million, has shot up to £3.92million because the damage is worse than first thought.

It comes after bids were invited from companies to tender for the work, a major project during the winter to a tight timescale.

The condition of the 80-year-old quay has led to a ‘more significant engineering solution than first envisaged’, says Weymouth and Portland Borough Council .

A 60-metre length of berth where fast ferries dock will be demolished and a new quay built in its place.

Money put into a harbour walls fund will help to pay for repairs but the majority will have to be borrowed.

Condor, which was Weymouth harbour’s biggest customer and pumped millions into the economy, switched its sailings to Poole in February after concerns were raised about the harbour wall. Movement of the structure was observed and cracks started to appear.

Damage has been caused over years by tides and the water-jet system used for manoeuvring fast ferries, which has sucked filling material from the structure of the quay.

Acknowledging how important the ferry link is to the town, councillors ordered repair works to be carried out so the berth could be ready for the summer sailing schedule in March, 2013.

Engineering consultants Atkins were appointed and started conducting studies before emergency advanced work was done to stop the wall collapsing.

This work, costing £242,000, was completed before the Olympics .

A report to the council’s Management Committee next Tuesday outlines the next step, saying that a contract must be awarded to one of three companies invited to tender for the main works ‘without delay’.

A works programme of 24 weeks has been suggested and the report also seeks approval for the increased figure of £3.92million.

The report, written by council engineer Ben Murray, says: “The condition of the quay, ascertained through investigations during the design phase, has led to a more significant engineering solution being required than first envisaged.

“The condition of (the existing structure) is such that a simple repair and reuse would carry excessive risk.

“The design solution proposed is comprehensive and will provide a modern, fit-for-purpose quay with a minimum design life of some 40 years.”

The initial estimated cost for the main works due to take place was £1.75million but this has now risen to £3.3million.

“The total bill is anticipated to be £3.92million which also includes design fees, the emergency work before the summer, risk allowance and contract supervision.

Mr Murray said discussions with Condor continue and have been ‘very positive.’ He said the firm wanted to return but was concerned with the ‘poor facilities’ at the port.

Poole Harbour Commissioners are keen to keep Condor in the port and are aiming to hold talks over the future of the service.

Condor has reiterated its desire to move back to Weymouth but said it did not want to comment on the latest developments.