Taxpayers are facing an extra £64 million bill to resolve a legal dispute with the consortium that built the Aberdeen bypass.
A settlement is close to being agreed which would pave the way for Transport Scotland to hand £32 million to both Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try to avoid a court showdown over cost overruns on the scheme.
Under a contract agreed with Scottish ministers, the construction of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR), which finally opened in full to motorists in February, had a fixed price of £745 million.
But after a series of delays and the collapse of the third member of the consortium, Carillion, it was claimed the actual cost to the contractors had rocketed to more than £1 billion.
Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try, which led the Aberdeen Roads Ltd (ARL) consortium, lodged a legal claim to try to claw back some of the money.
Galliford Try said in September that it had recorded £152 million of exceptional losses in relation to AWPR in the last three years and said it was hoping to recover £100 million from Transport Scotland.
Ministers initially insisted that the consortium had failed to substantiate its claims, and that the government would not pay over the odds for “mistakes or miscalculations that are of the contractors’ making”.
But a resolution is now close to being struck, and in a statement to the markets yesterday, Galliford Try confirmed it had agreed a £32 million deal, while Balfour Beatty said it was close to doing the same.
Last night, north-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said the Scottish Government had questions to answer.
“Finally the saga of the mounting costs of the AWPR seems to have reached a conclusion, almost 17 years after the project was given the green light by First Minister Jack McConnell in January, 2003,” he said.
“Michael Matheson told parliament earlier this year that the Scottish Government would ‘pay not a penny more’ than the £745 million which was the agreed price of the contract.
“£64,000,000 is clearly a lot of pennies, and I hope the SNP government will volunteer to explain to parliament what went wrong to cost so much extra on top of the contract price.
“If they don’t volunteer, they will no doubt be pressed by MSPs to tell the whole story.”
Mr Macdonald added: “Both the Scottish Government and the construction industry will need to learn lessons from the sorry saga of this £809 million project, not least the need to be transparent in the use of public funds.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “Following prolonged discussion, Transport Scotland has agreed in principle a full and final commercial settlement with ARL for construction of the AWPR/B-T.
“This is a strictly commercial settlement with no admission of liability by either party.
“The detailed terms of this settlement are now being developed between the parties as quickly as possible.
“Due to this ongoing legal discussion, it would be inappropriate to comment on the terms of the settlement at this time.”
He added: “As the first anniversary of the full opening of the AWPR/B-T project approaches, it is important to recognise the transformational effect this project has had on people’s daily lives in the north east, as evidenced through the widespread public support for the completed project.”