Contractors behind the AWPR project have not been “entirely straight” with the Scottish Government, the Transport Secretary Michael Matheson today claimed.
In an interview with the Evening Express, he heaped pressure on the building firms behind the
bypass to open the already completed 31.5km section from Craibstone to Stonehaven and Charleston as soon as possible.
It comes after Mr Matheson revealed to Holyrood yesterday that the £750 million project has been delayed yet again and is now targeting an opening date in December after defects were found at the new bridge over the River Don.
Mr Matheson laid the blame squarely with the contractors for the project – a joint venture between Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try known as Aberdeen Roads Limited – for holding this up after failing to grant a variation to the original contract.
Speaking to the Evening Express, the transport secretary said that section of road “could be opened up” but said there is “no provision” in the contract to allow that to happen.
Earlier this week, Mr Matheson said he spoke to Peter Truscott, chief executive of Galliford Try, to receive an update on the progress they were making discussing the issue with lenders.
He claims Mr Truscott confirmed to him that Aberdeen Roads Limited (ARL) was making the “necessary changes” to the contract to open the section but received a letter yesterday morning which suggested ARL had yet to agree to open this section of the road and to inform its lenders.
Mr Matheson, who has called for an urgent meeting with the contractors, said: “This suggests to me that the contractors have not been entirely straight on the matter and I have made it clear in my response to the contractor that I find that completely unacceptable.
“I’m not prepared to have a contractor say one thing on Monday and then on the Thursday to change their position.
“The issue is not our lack of desire to have that variation, it’s the lack of response from the contractor to make that happen.
“It’s up to the contractor to agree to that opening. There is no provision for it to be simply opened. There’s a clear way we can resolve this matter through a variation and we’ve been pursuing that for a considerable period of time now.”
When asked why the contractor was reluctant to make the changes to the contract, Mr Matheson said: “That’s a question which you will need to put to them.”
Throughout the duration of the project, contractors have refused to comment directly to the press due to the “partnering nature” of the project, with all requests instead being put to the government agency Transport Scotland.
When pressed on a definitive opening date, Mr Matheson said they couldn’t be “firm” about the time frame but said contractors believe the whole route could be open by December, adding that would “hopefully” be the case. He said: “At this stage it is dependent on a number of factors. The weather could have an impact.”
He told MSPs that the Scottish Government’s “primary responsibility” must be to ensure these works are completed safely to the required quality standards.
He added the River Don Crossing section would not open until Transport Scotland officials were confident this is the case, with the contractor working hard to repair the defects and ARL working to identify a new date for when the bridge will be ready.