The First Minister has hailed the AWPR as “transformative” for the region with initial estimates showing the new route has cut journey times by half.
Addressing north-east business leaders at Aker Solutions’ office in Dyce yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon said the new road was already delivering “major and significant improvements” including halving traffic on the old A90 and reducing travel times around the city centre.
Speaking to the Evening Express after the event – which saw the launch of a specially commissioned AWPR-themed exhibition by Scottish photographer Colin Prior – the First Minister said: “We’re already seeing the benefits in terms of reduced journey times. A journey from here to Stonehaven before the bypass took 45 minutes, today it takes 20 minutes.
“That helps to improve the quality of life for people who have to make that commute regularly by reducing congestion and reducing journey times. It helps to lower emissions as well and brings big economic advantages.
“The site we’re on just now, Aker – they made the decision to centralise operations largely because of the AWPR.”
Initial monitoring by Transport Scotland found key journey times have been reduced by half, even during rush hour, through the 36-mile AWPR route between Stonehaven and south of Ellon.
The £745 million project finally opened to drivers in February after being dogged by a series of delays and contractual problems.
Transport Scotland missed its “late autumn” target date and a later aspiration of January due to work repairing defects on the new River Don bridge after cracks were discovered.
When asked if any lessons could be learned from the handling of the project, Ms Sturgeon said: “While not underplaying these issues, they are not unheard of in big, complicated infrastructure projects.
“The AWPR, when it was under construction, was one of the biggest projects of its kind anywhere in Europe.
“These things are not unusual – there are issues that will need to be worked through – but in five, 10, 15 years time, I don’t think these will be the things people are talking about but the massive benefits.”
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson, who also attended yesterday’s event, said feedback on the route has been “overwhelmingly positive”.
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He said: “We can now see from the studies we’ve undertaken in recent months since the road was opened that traffic in Aberdeen city centre has reduced by 50%.
“We’ve already had feedback from some in industry who have said, for example, they can see house prices shifting in areas that are much more accessible as a result of the road.”
Mr Matheson said the cost of the project remained the “exact same” as it had at the outset.
He added: “With any additional costs associated with the road, the responsibility lies with the contractors to demonstrate that there’s a process in place to facilitate that and, to date, they’ve not been able to substantiate their claim. On that basis the cost remains as it did at the outset.”