Minister wants clarity on AWPR progress

Michael Matheson

SCOTLAND’S transport secretary Michael Matheson has requested an ‘urgent’ meeting with the board members of the contractors delivering the landmark Aberdeen bypass project to seek clarity on the timescales for opening the remaining sections.

Mr Matheson has urged the AWPR contractor – the Aberdeen Roads Limited consortium – to ‘stop deliberating and start acting’ so people can start to benefit from the major infrastructure initiative.

He was making a statement to the Scottish Parliament almost a week after he reported that Transport Scotland had been informed that a greater scope of work would be necessary to repair defects at the River Don Crossing.

Mr Matheson confirmed discussions to open the 31.5km section from Craibstone to Stonehaven and Charleston have taken place. However, this requires an as yet un-agreed change to the original contract.

Mr Matheson said, “Earlier this week, I spoke with Peter Truscott, chief executive of Galliford Try to receive an update on the progress they were making in discussing this variation with their lenders. Despite assurances that they were doing everything possible to open the road at the earliest opportunity, as well as a clear indication from Mr Truscott that they were making the necessary changes to the AWPR contract to open the 31.5km section, I was then disappointed to receive a letter from him which contradicted our discussion.

“It is this kind of inconsistency which is frustrating efforts to progress the opening of this new section. As recently as 12th September, Galliford Try issued a statement to markets to say the AWPR was on target to open in late Autumn 2018 and we had no reason to doubt that assessment.

“I have been urging the contractor to conclude its deliberations for some time. I repeated this to him on Monday and reiterated it again today in writing, It is now time for the contractor to stop deliberating and start acting. It now has to take the necessary steps to open the majority of this road and let the people of the north east enjoy the benefits they have been so patiently anticipating. I have therefore asked for unequivocal confirmation that the agreement is being progressed and when it will be concluded.”

On the confirmation that the River Don Crossing works have been further delayed, Mr Matheson added, “Our primary responsibility must be to ensure these works are completed safely, to the required quality standards. The River Don Crossing section will not open until Transport Scotland officials and I have confidence this is the case. The contractor is working hard to repair the defects and earlier this week it reported it was targeting a December opening date. However, it is not possible to provide a definitive date as there are a number of factors which could influence it including technical issues and other physical factors such as weather.

“We will continue to work closely with the AWPR contractor to ensure everything that can reasonable be done, is being done, and we will provide a definitive date for the opening of this section as soon as possible.

“In agreeing to the Craibstone to Stonehaven and Charleston section, the Scottish Government has a duty to protect the public interest: always maintaining a balance between opening sections of the road; releasing appropriate payment to the contractors at a time when it is dealing with the financial pressures of an over-running project; and maintaining the right level of incentive to finish the job.

“I fully appreciate this has been a challenging project for the contractor, not least with the collapse of its delivery partner, Carillion. It is well known that this has presented commercial pressures for the contractors. However, there is a truly exceptional infrastructure project waiting to be used by the people and businesses of the north east. Clearly, this needs to remain the single focus of all parties until the project opens to traffic.”