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Scottish transport upgrade costs 'will be kept down by road successes'

Scottish Government successes in delivering the M74 extension and M80 improvements will drive down the cost of other major road and rail infrastructure upgrades, a leading industry body has said.

In a shot in the arm for Scottish ministers’ transport plans, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (Ceca) said the experience built up on projects including the M74 and M80 would help improve “value” when future contracts were awarded.

The comments come after the Scottish Government outlined details of the £600 million Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route for contractors during an industry day on Wednesday, which attracted delegates from 60 organisations interested in bidding for the project.

The scheme will create a ring road around Aberdeen and other motorway improvements when complete in 2018, easing congestion and creating 14,200 jobs in the north east, according to government estimates.

It will run concurrently with a programme of upgrading the M8, M73 and M74, ensuring the main route between Glasgow and Edinburgh is of motorway standard for the entire route.

As well as committing to major motorway building schemes and the £1.6bn new Forth road crossing, government agency Transport Scotland has funded the £300m Airdrie-Bathgate rail link, which opened in 2009, and are due to spend £650m electrifying the main Glasgow-Edinburgh rail route by 2016, together with other upgrades to nearby routes.

“Scotland’s civil engineers welcome this further demonstration that, despite having had its budget cut significantly by Westminster, the Scottish Government’s remains committed to investment in infrastructure and providing a steady stream of major strategic projects,” said Alan Watt, chief executive of Ceca.

“This means that the construction experience gained on the M74 completion the M80 upgrade and currently mobilised on the Replacement Forth Crossing can then move on to projects like the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route. Not only does that provide the Scottish Government with better value but, equally importantly, it also protects jobs and skills.”

Leading industry figures say privately that the approach taken in Scotland is far better than south of the border, where major capital investment programmes were cut by the Coalition, only for many of them to be reinstated later.

“Companies say that dealing with the Highways Agency, for example, can be a nightmare. There is no confidence in what the spending plans are. With Transport Scotland there is a degree of stability which gives confidence to bidders,” an industry source said.

Four consortia are due to be selected to bid for the AWPR project which, like the M8 package of improvements, is being privately funded through the Scottish Government’s non profit distributing (NPD) method of borrowing.

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