Harbour chiefs in Aberdeen have confirmed the city’s new expanded harbour is set to begin opening by the end of next year.
Aberdeen Harbour Board’s chief executive Michelle Handforth told the Aberdeen City Region Deal committee the project is progressing well – despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the withdrawal of a key contractor earlier this year.
So far, around £230 million has been spent on the underwater infrastructure at the Bay of Nigg development.
Major contracts worth £34 million have been handed out over the last two months for upcoming works, and more are set to be procured in the coming weeks.
Speaking to the committee, Ms Handforth said the development would be “transformational” for the north-east.
She said: “We are on track, subject to all the caveats on construction attached to things like weather, to commence a phased opening from the end of 2021.
“We have awarded £34 million contracts in the last eight or nine weeks, and the contract for the south breakwater goes out to procurement within the next week or two.
“We are trying to keep as much of the project in the local area to support the Aberdeen business community and we couldn’t be happier with where we are in terms of construction throughout 2020.
“This infrastructure is going to arrive in the market and it’s a fantastic transformational asset for the region.
“Our efforts are focused on building for the future and working with our stakeholders on understanding how we can play our part in fulfilling decarbonisation and supporting a green energy hub in the north-east.
“South Harbour is not replacing our existing harbour. The integrated port of Aberdeen will be a significant asset and will allow us to leverage the international trading opportunities in a post-Brexit world.”
Meanwhile, the committee also heard a presentation on how efforts to improve rail links between Aberdeen and Scotland’s other cities are progressing.
Bodies including Network Rail and Transport Scotland are in the process of assessing options to improve journey times between the Granite City and Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The journey to the capital could be reduced by as much as 20 minutes, while additional stopping services are also likely to be added to run between Aberdeen and Dundee.
Signalling could also be revamped to allow more trains to use the line – increasing its capacity.
Douglas Rarity, Network Rail’s programme manager for the improvement works between Aberdeen and the central belt, said: “Increasing available space means additional services and quicker journeys.
“Semaphore [traditional] signalling is enduring and works but it’s significantly less efficient than modern signalling.
“There is a lack of overtaking opportunities between Aberdeen and Dundee and that’s why services sometimes take up to 25 minutes longer than the quickest.
“There’s improved journey times to Aberdeen and benefits to passengers north of Aberdeen as well.
“Additional passenger services gives customers more options because stations would see an additional number of trains calling each hour.
“There is also the link to new station provision in the south of Aberdeen. We have had input into and are exploring what might be possible.”