The long-awaited final section of the Aberdeen bypass may finally open in the next week but not until imperative final safety and structural checks are carried out.
The update on one of Scotland’s biggest infrastructure projects was provided by the government’s secretary for transport and infrastructure Michael Matheson who told Holyrood that physical work on the final 4.5 mile stretch was complete.
But in order for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) to be finally completed in full, Matheson said examinations over the next week were necessary as the new scheduled date for opening at the end of January accelerates closer.
The transport secretary’s update to Scottish politicians were part of a larger word of warning for Aberdeen Roads Limited - contractors for the project – who have been told in no uncertain terms that they could not cut corners to get the stretch of road open.
Contractors Galliford Try and Balfour Beatty were able to open a pivotal 20-mile section to motorists on 12 December after encountering a series of problems on the 36-mile bypass. One of the biggest stumbling blocks has been the Don crossing after investigations found ducts in the structure were displaced.
Speaking to parliament, Matheson said: “I am pleased to confirm the AWPR contractor has undertaken the remaining physical works on the Don crossing, with some survey works and safety checks being undertaken over the next week. In particular, I would like to thank the workforce for their efforts, especially at this time of year, in often challenging conditions. However, we continue to await ARL management providing the necessary technical assurances required to allow the road to open.”
Construction on the project originally began in February 2015 with the first main bypass section between Parkhill and Blackdog opening last summer. Currently, only 85% of the AWPR is open to motorists after multiple setbacks like Carillion’s collapse and extreme weather conditions at the start of 2018 disrupted progress.
But Matheson has warned the final section of the bypass will not open until Transport Scotland was happy that the “public purse is protected”.
He added: “Taxpayers have the right to expect high standards of quality when they pay for new infrastructure from reputable international construction firms and also, to not be penalised for mistakes of these contractor’s own making. Transport Scotland continues to work constructively with ARL, but I have been very clear and consistent that under no circumstances will the final section open until our technical experts are satisfied the public purse is protected. This is not the first time we have been forced to caution ARL against attempting to use the North East’s enthusiasm for the road to apply pressure and cut corners on important contractual issues that simply cannot be avoided.”