AWPR contractors invited to explain delays to MSPs

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Contractors building the delay-hit Aberdeen bypass have stated that construction will be completed next month.

Last night Galliford Try, one half of the Aberdeen Roads Limited (ARL) consortium, issued a statement to investors about the progress of the £745million scheme.

It said that the completion date for the River Don crossing, the final section, will be finished in December following setbacks with “increased complexity and weather delays”.

The firm added that, as a result, the total cost of the scheme has increased by around £20million.

Despite the announcement, an official opening date for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) is yet to be announced.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson pushed the opening date back from “late autumn” last week and called for changes to the AWPR contract so that the 19-mile Craibstone to Stonehaven stretch can be opened before the Don crossing.

Ahead of an urgent meeting with contractors today, he described the Galliford Try statement as “encouraging”.

“Given this statement is bound by stock market rules, I trust this represents a true reflection of their confidence levels and I look forward to this being reinforced by ARL at the meeting,” he said.

“Even more pressing, however, will be meaningful movement towards opening the remainder of the road as soon as possible.

“I can certainly see no impediment to this happening if ARL agrees to the necessary contract variation on the table.”

He added: “I am determined we continue to work constructively with ARL.

“However, I will also be reminding it that it stands at the beginning of a 30-year relationship with the north-east and it would be highly regrettable if substantial economic and social benefits are effectively being withheld in service of misguided commercial tactics.”

Meanwhile MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s connectivity committee have agreed to call both the contractors and Mr Matheson in to give evidence about the project’s missed deadlines.

Peter Chapman, a north-east Conservative MSP and connectivity committee member, said: “We need to get around the table and have the first full, frank discussion about how this mess has occurred.

“In his comments to the chamber last week, Mr Matheson put the onus on the consortium for every delay going.

“It will be interesting to find out how those at Aberdeen Roads Ltd felt about that, and whether they agree.”

North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: “I expect that the contractors will want to give their account.

“They certainly should take advantage of the opportunity to come to parliament to tell them and the public what has been going on.”