Transport Secretary Michael Matheson tonight said discussions with Aberdeen bypass contractors to open the southern stretch of the route have been “positive”.
Mr Matheson held talks with Aberdeen Roads Limited – a joint venture between construction firms Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try – in a bid to iron out legal wrangles that were preventing the already-completed Craibstone, Stonehaven and Charleston sections from opening.
Repairs, described as “remedial” by ARL, are also continuing at the new Don crossing, with a December opening date targeted.
Mr Matheson said: “Today I met with the AWPR contractor to offer any additional support required to get the road open and to understand the timescales for remedial works at the Don Crossing.
“Even more importantly, I was also very keen that meaningful steps are taken to agree a contract variation necessary to allow the remainder of the road to open at the earliest opportunity.”
Last week Mr Matheson told Holyrood that contract stipulations were causing the delays to opening the south stretch of road, which has been completed for a number of weeks.
In a statement after today’s meeting, Mr Matheson described the bypass project as “difficult” but praised the “positive” nature of the discussions.
He said: “I am well aware this has been a difficult project for the contractors and agreeing this variation would immediately allow the Scottish Government to release appropriate payment to ARL for the work they have completed satisfactorily.
“The meeting was positive and both parties have agreed to work constructively together to progress the contract variation necessary to open the next section of this project between Craibstone and Stonehaven and Charleston.
“I have scheduled a further discussion with the contractors early next week to ensure that we continue to make the necessary progress. For my part, I have committed to explore every opportunity to make this happen.
“I have been encouraged by Galliford Try’s trading statement this week. This confirms the Don Crossing is expected to be completed in December.
“I and my officials at Transport Scotland will therefore continue to offer ARL all the support required to conclude remedial work at the Don and open the full project as quickly as possible.
”We continue to thank the people and businesses of the north-east for their patience, especially in the past few weeks. Be in no doubt, I share the frustration they feel.”
Yesterday Galliford Try told its shareholders it had written off an extra £20m due to delays on the scheme, which is designed to improve traffic flow around Aberdeen and the north-east.
It has also confirmed the scheme will finally be finished in December – later than the previous “late autumn” deadline, which was the third deadline contractors have missed.
The Galliford Try trading statement said: “On AWPR, the completion date for the final section, including the bridge over the River Don, is now expected to be in December owing to increased complexity and weather delays in implementing repairs to the (Don Crossing) bridge.
“As a result of higher than anticipated direct costs, and the further delay to completion, our estimate of the final costs to complete the contract has increased by approximately £20m.”