After several months of silence about the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR), the Scottish Government announced last Wednesday, June 11, the preferred bidder to construct the controversial 26 mile four-lane route between Stonehaven and Balmedie, with work planned to commence later this year.
The Scottish Government has selected the consortium Connect Roads (CRD) to build the AWPR/Balmedie to Tipperty Project.
The consortium is made up of Balfour Beattie, Galliford Try and Carrilion, with work due to start this autumn and on track to be completed by spring 2018.
The AWPR will consist of four sections: Stonehaven to Cleanhill, Charleston to North Kingswells, North Kingswells to Blackdog, and Balmedie to Tipperty.
However, the route, originally expected to cost between £295-£395m when the proposals were first raised, is now projected to cost £745m - a small percentage of which cost will be shared by Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire Councils. The increased cost is, it is claimed, due partly to public protests, consultations, and court cases brought largely by anti-AWPR group Road Sense, many of whose members are resident in the Milltimber area most affected by the new road.
Transport Minister Keith Brown, announcing the chosen bidder, said that the AWPR would promise similar employment benefits as the completion of the M74, which supported around 900 construction jobs at its peak.
He added: “This project will provide substantial benefits across the whole of the North-east.
‘‘After many years of unwanted delay, I am delighted to have this opportunity to inform you that we have reached such an important milestone.”
Maureen Watt, SNP MSP for Aberdeen South & North Kincardine, welcomed the Transport Minister’s announcement.
She said: “This is a major investment in Scotland’s essential trunk road infrastructure and will bring thousands of jobs to the North-east over the next few decades, increasing business and tourism opportunities.
‘‘I am delighted that this decision has been reached and the project can move forward for the benefit of all those who live in Aberdeen and the surrounding areas.
‘‘It looks set to cut congestion and the length of journeys, which will be especially welcomed by commuters.”
Historically, not all North-east residents have been in agreement with the official sentiments expressed, and much of the controversy regarding the Deeside part of the route concerned the proposed construction of the route over the Netherley moors, across the proposed new bridge over the River Dee at Milltimber and up through part of the Milltimber suburbs towards Kingswells, with many residential homes and businesses either placed under compulsory purchase for demolition (for example, the International School (ISA) which has had to be moved nearer to Aberdeen).
The court cases which were pursued by resident groups were largely based on what was claimed to be the “illegality” of the process by which the route between Stonehaven and Kingswells was chosen by then-Transport Minister Tavish Scott.
In addition, many people claimed that the economic benefits and the projected easing of traffic congestion around Aberdeen would not materialize, with some alleging that studies carried out on similar road projects had actually increased the number of vehicles using the roads.
As of today, work which has been carried out on farm fields on the north banks of the River Dee at Milltimber is not, as some residents thought, the start of work on the by-pass project.
A spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “The invasive archaeological works currently under way are typical for major roads projects and are taking place at numerous locations along the AWPR/B-T route.
‘‘These works are part of our commitment to meeting the requirements of the Environmental Statement, as agreed with Historic Scotland. Excavation work is currently being undertaken in selected areas to enable the recording and documenting of the archaeological remains prior to the main works commencing, as planned, later in 2014.”