‘Billion-pound’ Aberdeen bypass to be open by Christmas

The Aberdeen bypass is to be fully open by Christmas – but the £745 million project bill is now more than £1 billion, members of a committee were told today.

Leaders of the three firms leading the scheme designed to improve traffic flow throughout Aberdeen and the north-east were today grilled by MSPs about repeated delays to the completion.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said on November 1 defects had been found in the River Don Crossing so it could not open by the end of November.

And though the 19.5-mile section from Craibstone to Stonehaven and Charleston is physically finished, it could not be opened due to red tape.

Contractors today said the red tape has been sorted out – and that section will be open next week.

They also said the bridge and the other unopened sections of road will open by Christmas, unless there is adverse weather, though snagging work is to continue until March.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of the Scottish Government’s rural economy and connectivity committee this morning, when MSPs grilled senior representatives of Galliford Try and Balfour Beatty – together known as Aberdeen Roads Ltd (ARL).

They were Balfour Beatty major projects managing director Stephen Tarr, Galliford Try’s construction and investment chief executive Bill Hocking and ARL director Brian Love.

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At the meeting North East MSP Mike Rumbles asked if the £745m project had now run into the hundreds of millions.

Mr Tarr said that would be accurate.

He added the three firms had lost “hundreds of millions pounds” due to the work and have put in a claim to Transport Scotland to get more money.

When Mr Rumbles if the claim would be in the tens or hundreds of millions of pounds, Mr Tarr said he could not answer due to confidentiality issues.

The sticking point for the opening of the Craibstone-to-Stonehaven section was that the project contract had to be varied.

Mr Tarr said: “Within the last 24 hours we can confirm we have secured lender consent to the contract variation which paves the way for this section to be open next week and we’re working to complete the works at the Don Crossing later this month.”

Mr Hocking said: “We have a degree of confidence (that the bridge will be open before Christmas).

The bridge defects were picked up in May, said Mr Tarr.

“We found some minor cracks underneath the structure. We had to undertake a sequence of repair work. That was quite painstaking and took us a period of time.

“As of today, the stressing and grouting is complete. It’s that site that’s holding up the opening up of the road.”

Mr Rumbles asked: “We were told there would be no further cost to the taxpayer because of the delays. How much more money are you wanting?”

Mr Tarr said: “One of the most significant (issues) is the early work with the utility providers.

“The claim we have stems from delays and underperformance due to that work. It’s those delays that have disrupted the progress of the work. Those issues lie at the heart against our claims.”

Mr Hocking said: “These delays (in opening the Craibstone-to-Stonehaven section) have cost us £4 million. We have a very strong interest in opening the road as soon as possible.”

Mr Tarr added: “We are hundreds of millions out of pocket for the work we have done in Aberdeen.

“It’s a serious financial situation that we’re in.

“I can tell you it’s not a very comfortable feeling on this side of the table.”