AWPR cost ‘to top £1bn’
The total cost of the constructing the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) will top £1 billion, contractors have confirmed to Holyrood.
While the bypass is being built under a £745 million fixed price contract, building firm Balfour Beatty said delays to the project had resulted in additional costs that “run into hundreds of millions”.
Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try – the other company involved in the project – are now in talks with Transport Scotland in a bid to see if they can claw back extra public funds.
Bill Hocking, chief executive officer for construction and investments, Galliford Try, told MSPs: “We have put forward a claim to Transport Scotland in respect of some of the issues that have been faced in the project.”
He said those were linked to the poor weather which has hindered construction work, as well as delays from diverting essential utility services.
Stephen Tarr, managing director of the major projects division at Balfour Beatty, added the claim submitted to Transport Scotland was “for a not insignificant sum”.
He told MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee: “We’re in a situation as of today where the joint venture partners are hundreds of millions out of pocket as a consequence of the work we’ve been doing in Aberdeen.”
He was pressed on whether the claim amounted to tens of millions of pounds, or hundreds of millions of pounds.
But he told the committee that was not something he wanted to reveal “because of the commercial nature of the discussions that we are having”.
North East Scotland Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald then asked him: “If I was to put to you that the total cost of the project is over £1 billion you would accept that that is broadly correct?”
Mr Tarr told him: “Yes, I think from what we’ve said you could deduce those are the areas of the cost.”
Work on the 36-mile road had been due to be completed in the spring of this year, after it was hit by delays.
But further problems have seen the opening date pushed back, with contractors now hoping the final section of the roadway could be open before Christmas.
Mr Tarr said the opening of the new road “would have been delayed longer than it currently is” if the two contractors had not taken mitigating measures.
“There are significant costs that run into the hundreds of millions,” he said, adding these had contributed to the construction firm Carillion – which had also been involved in the AWPR project – becoming insolvent.
Brian Love of Aberdeen Roads Ltd – the consortium set up to carry out the work – stressed however that finishing the work before Christmas is “not cast in stone” as weather could delay the completion of a section of the road which crosses over the River Don.
He stated: “The contractor is targeting a date prior to Christmas for the opening of the Don bridge, that construction programme is subject to many things, notably weather, so adverse weather could throw that out.”
However the Stonehaven to Craibstone section of the roadway should be open to traffic next week, the committee was told.
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said it had taken his intervention for this to happen, despite this stretch having been completed two months ago.
He stated: “I have explored every possible avenue with Aberdeen Roads Ltd to open this section of road as soon as possible and I am delighted my efforts to bring this matter to a positive conclusion have been successful.”
But he was also clear ministers were “simply not willing to pay over the odds for the road on account of mistakes or miscalculations that are of the contractors’ own making”.
He also said the “optimistic programme” to have the work completed before Christmas should be regarded “with caution”.
“Aberdeen Roads Ltd has said it aims to finish the bridge before Christmas but has also correctly warned the remaining works are complex, very weather sensitive and subject to safety and quality tests,” Mr Matheson added.
“We should therefore treat this optimistic programme with caution.”