NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Aberdeen bypass sections to open next week

Aberdeen bypass work
Image caption The bypass is one Scotland's biggest infrastructure projects

The completed stretches of the Aberdeen bypass are expected to open next week.

Stephen Tarr, of Balfour Beatty, told MSPs consent had been secured for a contract variation which paved the way for the opening.

The contractors building the bypass were being questioned by Holyrood's rural economy and connectivity committee on delays to the project.

MSPs heard the final cost was likely to be more than £1bn, well above the original £745m contract.

Discussions are ongoing about liability for the extra costs.

BBC Scotland revealed on Wednesday that the whole of the delayed road could be finished by Christmas.

The completed 31.5km (20 miles) section due to open next week is between Craibstone and Stonehaven and Charleston.

Mr Tarr said there had been "quite a spectrum of disruption" and it was hoped the full road would open later this month.

However, Brian Love, of Aberdeen Roads Ltd, said a pre-Christmas opening date was not yet set in stone as River Don bridge work could still be hit by bad weather.

'Some caution'

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson welcomed news of the contract progress, but also said the bridge opening programme should be treated with "some caution" due to potential weather or technical issues.

The £745m 28-mile (45km) bypass was approved by Scottish ministers in 2009 and was originally due to open in the spring.

However, that slipped to late autumn this year after defects were found on the bridge built over the Don.

North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald asked whether the total final cost would be more than £1bn.

Mr Tarr replied: "Yes, you could deduce this".

Image caption Technical issues have delayed the project

Mr Matheson stressed there was a "responsibility" to protect the interests of taxpayers.

'Complex document'

Bill Hocking, of contractor Galliford Try, said the Aberdeen bypass project would be reviewed for any lessons to be learned for the future.

He described the Aberdeen bypass contract as a "huge, complex document" which had taken a "frustrating" amount of time to amend.

Sections of the road between Stonehaven and the A96 have been finished since October but due to a contractual dispute with the Scottish government they are still not open.

The committee heard the negotiations have now been concluded but BBC Scotland understands final checks and a police sign-off are required.

'Without undue cost'

Committee Convener Edward Mountain later said: "Our committee wants to ensure that the project is delivered without undue cost to the taxpayer.

"From the evidence heard today, final costs to the taxpayer will not be clarified until the contractors' claims for additional outlays in relation to the project are considered and resolved."

Officials have been locked in high level meetings with Aberdeen Roads Ltd since late October when it first reported more extensive technical issues finishing the River Don crossing than initially expected.

The bypass was approved by Scottish ministers in 2009, and is one of the biggest infrastructure projects currently being undertaken in Scotland.

Preparatory work began in August 2014, and construction began in February 2015.

The first main bypass section - between Parkhill and Blackdog - opened in June and the Balmedie to Tipperty section of the bypass fully opened to traffic in August.

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