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Exclusive: £50m Haudagain improvements further delayed as Covid hits work

The finishing date for work at the Haudagain roundabout and bypass in Aberdeen has been delayed by at least six months.
The Haudagain roundabout and bypass

A £50 million project to improve an Aberdeen roundabout once dubbed Europe’s worst will take an extra six months to complete.

Transport Scotland has confirmed to The Press And Journal the so-called Haudagain bypass, linking North Anderson Drive to Auchmill Road around the notorious bottleneck, will not be finished until the winter.

The A92/A96 junction improvements were previously expected to be finished this spring but the Scottish Government has quietly announced the pandemic had taken a toll on big money projects.

Farrans Construction was awarded the £18m contract to complete the roads overhaul in late 2018, as part of the overall £49.5m works.

The new date, which is not thought to alter the cost of the 1,600ft dual carriageway, only came to light this week when the government’s transport quango announced another three months of roadworks and disruption.

Nestrans chairwoman, and city transport spokeswoman, Sandra Macdonald, was unaware of the delay until being contacted by the P&J.

Traffic queued at the Haudagain roundabout, where work has been delayed.
Traffic queued at the Haudagain roundabout in July 2020.

The Aberdeen Labour councillor said: “It is disappointing to hear this project will trundle on for the rest of 2021, although I take on board the effect of the virus on all our lives and certainly some of the council’s projects.

“But this will impact hugely on the transport network in the area and for longer than anyone of us would have expected, particularly users of public transport.

“There will be knock-on effects but it would be good to see government plans – how confident are they now that the work will be done by the winter end date?”

Conservative council co-leader Douglas Lumsden added: “In 2008 the council considered an urgent report on the Haudagain roundabout and the need for work to commence immediately.

“Fast forward to January 2021 and Aberdeen residents are still waiting for the Scottish Government to finish the Haudagain.

“We all want to see the improvements finished, however there are serious questions that need to be asked of the Scottish Government as to why this project has taken 13 years to get where it is.”

At the beginning of lockdown last March, work was halted for almost three months.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The construction is progressing and, as confirmed in the recent publication of the infrastructure investment plan, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures to combat the impact of the pandemic, completion is now anticipated in winter 2021.

“This is subject to any further impacts of the pandemic and unforeseen circumstances such as the effects of exceptional weather.

“Transport Scotland is working with the contractor to review the programme of work and identify any actions which may help to mitigate delays where possible.”

The Scottish Government document revealed a raft of other key infrastructure projects which have faced delays due to the pandemic.

It referenced new schools in Inverurie and Alness which both had April 2020 opening dates pushed back to October due to difficulties relating to the pandemic.

Meanwhile the new £42m Lossiemouth High School, which was initially planned to open to pupils in August, may instead be ready by April.

Work on the 800-pupil facility was initially ahead of schedule, but fell off-track when all non-essential construction sites were shut in March.

The document said council officials are currently working with contractors to agree a handover date.

Meanwhile, rail improvements worth more than £56m for the Highland Main Line were delayed from this May to December due to the late delivery of new high-speed trains.

And last year a near-£100m initiative to build new ferries linking island communities faced another setback as it was stifled by coronavirus restrictions.

Already more than five years behind schedule, partly due to the collapse of one of the shipbuilders, the first vessel is now scheduled for delivery by June 2022, with the second by February 2023.

Virus takes toll on construction of north hospitals

The opening dates of two north hospitals have been pushed back as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A £25 million community hospital in Broadford, Skye, was due to open this May, as part of a wider redesign of NHS Highland services there, Lochalsh and in south-west Ross.

The impact of Covid-19, alongside a two-week delay while design alterations were made, means it is now expected to become operational in October.

It is estimated the cost of construction has increased by around £1m in turn, but the figures have yet to be fully verified.

Other work to revamp part of Portree Community Hospital to act as a “spoke” to Broadford’s “hub” is now under review.

The Scottish Government document says this decision was taken following a recent review of urgent care and the purchase of Home Farm Care Home, where 10 residents died following a Covid outbreak in April.

Elsewhere a £28m community hospital in Aviemore is now expected to open in September – a delay of four months.

A similar estimation, of an extra £1m in construction costs due to the pandemic, has also been made.

Meanwhile a programme to “reconfigure” services in the wider Badenoch and Strathspey area is now due for completion in June next year, rather than the original February target.

NHS Highland said: “Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the impact that this has had on the construction of the facilities, we have had to push back the dates until later this year.

“Construction on each project has recommenced and we look forward to completing them as soon as we can.”