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A9 Tomatin to Moy dualling will not be finished before 2027 as costs rocket by £35 million

By Scott Maclennan

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An artist's impression of the Tomatin to Moy dualling project.
An artist's impression of the Tomatin to Moy dualling project.

The Scottish Government has confirmed the cost of dualling the Tomatin to Moy section of the A9 has rocketed from £115 million to £150 million.

A contract will not even be awarded before the summer of 2024 and it is expected to take three years to complete.

First Minister Humza Yousaf announced that the tendering process had been formally launched during his statement to Holyrood about his Programme for Government.

The failure to make a contract award on the original tendering process was revealed at same time as the Scottish Government confirmed it would not meet the 2025 deadline for the programme.

In a subsequent statement Transport Scotland said: “The Contract Notice for the construction of the £150 million A9 Dualling: Tomatin to Moy project was published today, following an extensive market consultation exercise resulting in a new contract designed to attract more bidders to the competition.

“It is anticipated that the contract will be awarded in early Summer 2024 and the project is expected to take around three years to build.”

Given the huge delays in awarding a new contract the news will likely be lambasted by campaigners as far too slow, particularly given the recent death of an 18 year old on that section of road.

Mairi McAllan at The Inverness Courier's A9 Crisis Summit.
Mairi McAllan at The Inverness Courier's A9 Crisis Summit.

'Another positive step'?

But the transport secretary Màiri McAllan said that the announcement is “another positive step towards full dualling” without revealing what the preceding “positive step” was.

“I know that today’s announcement will be a welcome update for communities and businesses across the A9 corridor,” she said.

“Progression of the A9 Dualling Programme continues to be a priority for this Government and today’s announcement underlines our commitment to one of the largest, most complex infrastructure programmes in Scotland’s history.

"Road safety is of paramount importance to both myself, and this Government, and I understand how vital dualling the A9 is to the communities and businesses that rely on the A9 each day.

“Today’s announcement is another positive step towards full dualling and I can assure you that my officials and I continue to work urgently to progress the remainder of this critical programme.

"The Tomatin to Moy section, once completed, will contribute to our shared vision for Scotland – a connected Scotland, with safe, accessible transport systems for all of our communities and businesses, as well as the tourists we welcome each year.

“It also allows us to set new aspirations for carbon reduction in construction whilst creating employment and training opportunities that benefit the communities surrounding this project.”

‘Attractive contract’

Contractors considering bidding for the £150 million Tomatin to Moy dualling are likely to view the project as more “attractive” after the Scottish Government opted to accept “a more balanced approach to the sharing of risk”.

A new form of contract was developed because Transport Scotland’s hopes of finishing the dualling programme by 2025 came to shuddering official halt in February when it was revealed that deadline could not be met.

Pressure on the government had grown almost intolerable after Grahame Barn, the CEO of Civil Engineering Contractor’s Association (CECA) told the petitions committee in June that Transport Scotland was “the worst client to work for in the UK.”

But now following the “extensive” engagement with industry, Mr Barn believes the new contract offered is much improved and will lead to more competitive bids.

He said: "CECA is grateful for the substantial consultation Transport Scotland has undertaken with me, CECA member companies and the wider contracting industry to enable them to develop a new form of contract that seeks to address many of the concerns previously expressed by industry.

"The move to NEC4 is a welcome change and aligns Transport Scotland with other major clients across the UK. Whilst this contract is to be an amended version of NEC4, I am comforted by the assurances that the changes are mostly around process and do not, once again, transfer significant risk from the client to the contractor.

"A considerable body of work has had to be undertaken by Transport Scotland to ensure that the terms and conditions of their new contract work for both the taxpayer and the contracting industry.

“This has, rightly, taken time to execute properly and I am confident that with this change to an amended NEC4 contract, contractors will view the Tomatin to Moy dualling as being attractive to bid.”

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