Western Isles Council bosses say they have scrapped the £10million construction of a new pier at Lochmaddy in North Uist because the lead contractor failed to return following the Covid-19 lockdown.
The main contractor, Irish-based L&M Keating, is understood to have initially suspended work when restrictions were first introduced in March.
Council bosses say they returned briefly in July, but left their sites at Lochmaddy and a Greenock drydock, where a steel-structured cassion for the pier is being built, not long afterwards.
Despite saying they would return again in August, the council said they did not come back – sparking concern how this would impact island-based subcontractors and suppliers of materials.
Western Isles Council – the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar – yesterday announced that the delivery of the improvement works at Lochmaddy Pier will be delayed further.
Following a consideration of the contractual details by the Comhairle at the end of September, the contract with Keating has now been terminated and the council, in collaboration with Transport Scotland as key funders of the project, are exploring options for commissioning and organising delivery of the works.
In the meantime, there is a need to undertake reinstatement works at the site to ensure it is left safe and secure for the intervening period and it is planned to undertake these in the coming weeks.
In addition, it is proposed to undertake a programme of enabling works over the coming months, including completing the demolition of the former Visit Scotland and former Coastguard properties and undertaking advance utility diversion works at the site.
Councillor Uisdean Robertson, chairman of the Comhairle’s transportation and infrastructure committee, said: “Whilst we recognise the financial and organisational challenges facing the contractor, it is crucial that we continue with the delivery of the improvement works.
“The decision to terminate the contract was not taken lightly and we see re-engaging with the construction sector as soon as possible as the best way forward for the project.”
A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The Scottish Government remains committed to the Skye Triangle Infrastructure programme and harbour upgrades at Tarbert, Lochmaddy and Uig.
“The Lochmaddy Pier project is led by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and we will continue to work with them, and other members of the multi-agency Skye Triangle Infrastructure Improvement Programme Steering Group, to establish a way forward that meets the needs of all programme stakeholders and communities.”
Re-tendering will delay the project – which began in January – by around a year.
The work is part of an overall modernisation of harbours forming part of the Skye triangle infrastructure project, involving upgrades of ports at Lochmaddy, Tarbert and Uig.
The improvements are designed to prepare for the delivery of new CalMac vessels, which themselves are at the centre of a controversy, as they were due to be constructed at the Ferguson Marine base on the Clyde – but these are experiencing long delays and increase in costs following Scottish Government intervention.
Attempts were made to contact Keating Construction, also known as L&M Keating, in Ireland, without success.