As yet another deadline is missed to open the final stretch of bypass, Transport Minister Michael Matheson writes he is losing faith in the contractors.
Last week, the largest section of the AWPR opened.
Twenty miles of new road connecting Stonehaven, Charleston and Craibstone. Including sections opened earlier in the summer, benefits are now flowing from over 85 per cent of the finished project.
The road opened very smoothly. Transport Scotland and partners will continue to monitor closely to ensure this continues.
I’ve been thrilled by people’s stories of journeys literally transforming overnight, either via the AWPR or far less congested city roads.
Take Graham Millar’s experience reported in the media recently.
Mr Millar’s regular journey to the Grampian MS Centre in Dyce for vital treatment took around one uncomfortable hour in each direction for the past 13 years.
Last week that reduced to 28 minutes. In Mr Millar’s words, this will transform his life.
That’s the power of infrastructure – it can transform your life, free up hours spent in traffic, get your goods to market quicker, reduce your costs, grow your customer base and ultimately, the whole economy.
This is the prize the region has been waiting for and is why, in 2007, this Scottish Government was first to meaningfully progress this long-discussed project.
However, we are not there yet.
The contractor Aberdeen Roads Limited (ARL) reports the final 4.5 miles will not now open this year due to recent poor weather.
This is despite informing the Scottish Parliament on December 5 it expected the Don Crossing to be complete before Christmas.
I immediately urged caution with this ambitious timescale, particularly given the likelihood of adverse weather and how little tolerance its programme had.
Unfortunately, this has proved correct.
This is immensely frustrating. One cannot have faith in ARL’s ability to meet its own deadlines.
Parliament was told to expect completion at the Don by Christmas; Balfour Beatty’s trading statement of December 14 revised this to the end of the year.
On December 17 at a meeting with ARL, Transport Scotland officials were told work would be complete by December 23, yet the next day we were informed this would no longer be possible.
None of this detracts from the hard work and dedication of the workforce out on the Don Crossing. I thank them for their efforts.
The series of technical issues ARL faced during the construction of the Don Crossing is well documented.
The Scottish Government must protect the public purse and we await ARL providing necessary technical and commercial assurances regarding the bridge.
Traffic will only be introduced to the road once the contractor satisfies us it is safe to do so.
However, there is now no hiding place to attempt any further misguided commercial tactics around completing the Don.