Balfour Beatty and Galliford Try bosses have told Scottish MSPs in parliament the final cost of the Aberdeen bypass will skyrocket above the £1bn mark while also telling those in Holyrood that the next major 20-mile section of the route is set to open next week.
Despite the massive stretch of road between Stonehaven and Craibstone being completed back in October, disagreements over a contract between the Scottish Government and Aberdeen Roads Limited – the consortium responsible for AWPR - has delayed the opening until this month.
Appearing before politicians today were Balfour Beatty’s major projects managing director Stephen Tarr and Galliford Try’s construction and investment chief executive Bill Hocking and ARL director Brian Love.
The three men were hauled before politicians to give an update on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) which was originally due to open in spring and cost £745m but a series of problems have led to its delay with the full route now hoped to be officially opened by Christmas.
During a Rural Economy and Connectivity committee meeting at Holyrood, politicians were told that Transport Scotland could be forced to fork out more money for the major road scheme due to “significant issues” brought about by preparation works undertaken by utility providers contracted by the public sector. It was revealed that some utility jobs were 18 months late.
“The claim we have with Transport Scotland actually stems from delays, underperformance in relation to those utilities companies,” Balfour Beatty’s Tarr said. “It’s those delays that have disrupted the progress of the works, and those issues are at the heart of the claim.”
It is not been confirmed by people on either side whether the claims being made by contractors which taxpayers will have to incur will be in the tens of millions or the hundreds of millions. Infrastructure and connectivity secretary Michael Matheson later told MSPs that the issue could be fought out in court with contractors needing to provide evidence of any such utility problems.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks this year in the opening of the Aberdeen bypass has been the Don crossing with bosses saying they were first made aware of issues in mid-May.
Commenting on the problem encountered, Balfour Beatty’s major project boss said during intensive investigations on the alignment of the ducts, it was discovered they were displaced causing unexpected pressure in the concrete around the ducts.
“Sections of the deck were broken out to realign and recast the ducts and ultimately restress the structure,” he added. “The Don bridge has vertical and horizontal curvature which complicated it. We don't feel we tied the ducts down sufficiently during the concrete pouring process. It took six to eight weeks due to the nature of the investigation works and a rolling sequence of investigation and repairs, we needed to make sure the repairs didn't affect the structure overall.”
But the opening of the AWPR has encountered problems from very early on. The demise of Carillion being another obstacle. Originally, Galliford Try, Balfour Beatty and Carillion, were responsible for delivering one of Scotland’s biggest infrastructure projects but when Birmingham-based Carillion liquidated in January, the remaining two partners were left to pick up the pieces.
Commenting on Carillion’s impact, Galliford Try’s Hocking, said despite it had disrupted operations but was “proud of what we have achieved in the face of such adversity”.
“From a practical perspective, it disrupted our operations,” he said. “They were one third of the venture, providing one third of working capital and one third of the staff. We had an obligation to continue the contract, we employed a vast majority of the Carillion staff, we believe we mitigated the affect of Carillion's insolvency as best we could.”