The southern section of the Aberdeen bypass will finally open early tomorrow (Wed)morning allowing traffic to travel from Craibstone to Stonehaven and Charleston on the new dual carriageway.
Transport Scotland urged motorists to exercise “extreme caution” when driving in the north east until they become accustomed to the changes to the road layout that result from the opening of the 20-mile stretch.
Tomorrow’s opening includes the A90 from Stonehaven to Craibstone stretch plus the A956 Cleanhill to Charleston stretch and will let traffic on to more than 85% of the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR).
The announcement was welcomed by politicians across the parties with Transport Secretary Michael Matheson promising that the completion of the entire project would bring £6billion to the north-east economy and create 14,000 jobs over the next three decades.
The contractors have said they are hopeful that the remaining part of the controversial project – the Don Crossing – would be ready by Christmas, subject to the weather and safety checks.
Mr Matheson thanked motorists, communities and businesses for their patience while they have waited for the paperwork to be signed that enabled the southern stretch of the much delayed project to be opened.
The Transport Secretary said thousands of drivers would benefit from improved journey time, better access and reduced congestion.
“It will also improve air quality and reduce traffic volume in Aberdeen City, making pedestrian and cycle travel around Aberdeen easier, safer and a more enjoyable experience,” Mr Matheson said.
The progress was also welcomed by Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden and Aberdeenshire Council leader councillor Jim Gifford. The local authorities have invested £75million each in the project.
Steve Szalay, Managing Director, Aberdeen International Airport, said the AWPR opening would be a “key milestone” in the revitalisation of the north-east.
Police Scotland said a “phased approach” would be taken to opening the junctions. Until the completion of the Don Crossing, temporary measures will be put in place for motorists travelling between Craibstone and Parkhill.
Douglas Laird, Transport Scotland AWPR project manager, called for caution from drivers for the safety of all motorists using the road.
Police Scotland chief inspector Stewart Mackie said there would be speed checks along the route and warned it would take time for motorists to “familiarise” themselves with the new layout.
The first vehicles will take to the Craibstone to Stonehaven and Charleston section exactly one week after the project contractors admitted that the entire bypass had cost more than £1billion when they appeared before MSPs at Holyrood.
The admission, made at a meeting of the parliament’s Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee, revealed that the contractors had spent way more than the £745million fixed contract for the road and sparked fears that taxpayers could be forced to shell out more on the project.
Opposition politicians expressed concern that a compensation claim lodged by contractors Aberdeen Roads Ltd with Transport Scotland could cost the public purse hundreds of millions of pounds.
Also appearing in front of the committee, Mr Matheson said the Craibstone to Stonehaven and Charleston section could have been opened two months ago and expressed frustration the that contractors had attempted to link its opening with their compensation claim.
North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said: “There’s nothing like appearing in front of a parliamentary committee to concentrate the mind, and in this case the contractors building the AWPR have clearly got the message.
“We know that this stretch of road has been ready to use since 5 October, and two months of dither and delay in actually getting it open to traffic have been hugely irritating to road users in the North East.
“Now this part of the AWPR is open, I look forward to driving on it for the first time when I come home from parliament on Thursday night. There’ll be a few letters to Santa asking for the rest of the road to be finished for Christmas.”
Liam Kerr, Scottish Conservative MSP for the north-east region, said: “Motorists in the north-east will of course welcome any progress on the AWPR. It has been clear to everybody locally that this section was completed some time ago. SNP Ministers must now provide a date for the whole project to be completed.”