Ministers have been urged to “come clean” amid concerns a major road improvement project in Aberdeen will run over budget.
Last month it emerged works at the Haudagain roundabout – once dubbed the worst in the whole of Europe – would be delayed by six months.
Work at the A92/A96 junction was previously expected to be finished in spring this year, but transport chiefs admitted the project will now not be completed until the coming winter.
Now there are fears the work, which was predicted to cost around £50 million, will run over budget due to the delays and rising costs.
Regional Conservative MSP Liam Kerr wrote to transport secretary Michael Matheson, raising concerns the taxpayer could face a repeat of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route – which saw the bypass come in £64 million over budget.
In a response to Mr Kerr, Mr Matheson said it was “too early” to determine what the financial implications of the delay to the project might be.
However, he admitted only half of the delay period was due to site closures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mr Kerr said: “This project is a priority for Aberdeen and the Scottish Government must make sure it doesn’t let the costs of the Haudagain upgrade spiral out of control like it did with the AWPR.
“The people of Aberdeen have been waiting 13 years for this upgrade having first been announced in 2008 and taxpayers must see value for money.
“This is why I’m calling on the SNP Government to come clean on any cost rises associated with the project.
“Michael Matheson has said it’s too early but surely Transport Scotland must have new cost projections if they already know there will be at least a six-month delay to the upgrade.
“I understand the impact Covid has had but the transport secretary has admitted that in addition to the site being closed for three months due to the pandemic, there has been another three months worth of delays that have occurred.
“This shows other factors have also pushed back the completion date and it’s vital these are addressed to ensure the upgrade is finished by the end of the year.”
In his written response, Mr Matheson said: “With regards to the cost implications on the project from the pandemic and the measures to combat its impact it remains too early to determine and confirm these costs at this time.
“All costs being presented by the contractor for payment under the contract will be scrutinised by Transport Scotland.
“The contractor will be required to demonstrate that it is making best endeavours to minimise any such costs.”
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “As explained in the letter to Mr Kerr MSP construction on the Haudagain Junction Improvement project was temporarily shut down for a period of almost three months and following a phased restart has been subject to ongoing measures to combat the Covid-19 pandemic and to protect the health of the nation.
“The programme impact of the shutdown and the measures in place to restart the works can be compounded by seasonally affected activities being displaced from their planned period, resulting in a longer programme extension than the shutdown. While our priority remains the health and safety of the workforce, road users and the local community, works are progressing and completion is now anticipated in winter 2021, subject to any further impacts of the pandemic and the effects of exceptional weather.
“It remains too early to determine and confirm the cost implications to the project as a consequence of the pandemic and the measures to combat it as these will be determined in accordance with the terms of the contract. As confirmed to Mr Kerr MSP, all costs being presented by the contractor for payment under the contract will be scrutinised by Transport Scotland.
“Transport Scotland will always take the necessary steps to protect the public purse whilst also maintaining a constructive relationship and dialogue with the contractor, and the wider construction industry during the challenges the industry faces at this time.”