Taxpayers could count cost of £1billion AWPR
Southern section of bypass to open next week – as fears over fixed contract sparked
THE SOUTHERN section of the Aberdeen bypass will finally open next week amid fury that the cost of the project has spiralled to £1billion.
The soaring figure was admitted by contractors yesterday and led to fears that taxpayers will be hit with a multi-millionpound compensation bill in addition to the £745million cost of its fixed contract.
North East MSP Mike Rumbles said: “There must be concerns this could run into hundreds of millions. I am worried about the extent to which the public purse is being exposed to more claims.”
It is understood the stretch between Stonehaven, Charleston and Craibstone could open on Wednesday or Thursday.
Contractors are hopeful the Don Crossing will be open by Christmas, although work is still being carried out and completion is still subject to weather and safety checks.
The Aberdeen bypass contractors yesterday said the Stonehaven, Charleston and Craibstone stretch of the dual carriageway will open next week as they also admitted the entire project has cost more than £1 billion.
Fears that the taxpayer could be billed hundreds of millions in extra cash were raised after contractors were grilled by MSPs on Holyrood’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.
The opening of the 20-mile stretch is likely to take place on late Wednesday or Thursday and will mean that traffic will be able use more than 85% of the road.
The contractors said they still hoped the final section would be ready by Christmas with the completion of the Don Crossing. But with work still being carried out on the bridge, they warned it was still subject to weather and safety checks.
Stephen Tarr of Balfour Beatty told MSPs the contractors were “hundreds of millions out of pocket”, saying the cash had been spent in order to avoid further delays on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR).
Although the project has a fixed contract of £745 million, Mr Tarr confirmed that the contractors were seeking compensation from Transport Scotland for the extra money spent on top of that sum.
Neither the contractors nor Transport Secretary Michael Matheson would disclose how much was at stake when asked if the cost of the claim was in the region of tens of millions or hundreds of millions. Both argued that such information was bound by commercial confidentiality.
But the cost of the entire project came to light when Mr Tarr was asked by North East MSP Lewis Macdonald if he would accept that the sum was now over £1bn.
Mr Tarr replied: “I think from what we have said you could deduce those are the areas.”
The figure was greeted with anger by members of the committee. After the meeting, the Lib Dem MSP for the North East Mike Rumbles expressed concern that more taxpayers’ cash could end up being spent on the AWPR.
“The Scottish Government’s so-called ‘fixed price contract’ of £745m may not turn out to be that,” Mr Rumbles said.
“Contractors confirmed that the cost of the road could be up to £1bn.
“The Transport Secretary was unable to confirm to the committee the level of claims for more taxpayers’ money lodged with them by the contractors and unable to tell MSPs when the final cost will be known.”
He added: “There must be concerns this could run into hundreds of millions. I am worried about the extent to which the public purse is being exposed to more claims.”
Mr Tarr gave evidence alongside Bill Hocking of Galliford Try and Brian Love of Aberdeen Roads Limited.
Problems to beset the project included the collapse of Carillion, which had been part of the contractors’ joint venture, and severe weather.
But Mr Tarr said the compensation claim centred on delays caused by “underperformance” of utility companies when it came to installing more than 300 water pipes, electricity cables, overhead lines and gas pipes across the site.
Appearing before the committee, Mr Matheson warned that the contractors’ claims could end up in court.
The Transport Secretary said it was “not unusual” for claims to be made during construction projects.
He added: “Any claim would have to be substantiated and demonstrated for any additional claims to be made.
“As it stands at the present moment, it will be within the costs it says in the contract.”
Photograph by Kenny Elrick WEATHER PERMITTING: Contractors hope the Don Crossing, pictured yesterday, will be open by Christmas
The AWPR bypass near Craibstone, a section which is due to open in the next few days