Transport Scotland has retendered construction of the €175 million A9 Dualling: Tomatin-to-Moy project following a contract designed to attract more bidders to the competition.
The ministry said it anticipates that the contract will be awarded in early summer 2024 with completion in three years.
Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering, Wills Bros Civil Engineering and John Graham Construction were shortlisted for the project. But issues arose at the start of this year around the equitable sharing of risk and procurement for the 9.6km Tomatin to Moy section – part of the €3.5 billion dualling of the A9 between Perth and Inverness - was halted pending a review.
The latest announcement by the ministry means an amended version of the NEC4 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) will be used – NEC standing for New Engineering Contract. NEC4 has been available since mid-2017. This new edition reflects procurement and project management developments and emerging best practice, with improvements in flexibility, clarity and the ease of administration.
The move to an amended NEC4 contract follows an extensive market consultation undertaken by Transport Scotland to understand the views of the sector. As a result of this engagement, the ministry said the updated contract strategy for the A9 project uses both a new form of contract, preferred by the industry and used widely across the UK, as well as a more balanced approach to the sharing of risk between the Scottish ministers and the contractor.
"The move to NEC4 is a welcome change and aligns Transport Scotland with other major clients across the UK,” said Grahame Barn, chief executive of the UK’s Civil Engineering Contractor’s Association in Scotland. “While 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,” he said. “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.”
A report by the BBC, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), in June noted that dualling the A9 between Inverness and Perth has been on the Scottish government’s agenda since 2008. Upgrading the A9 is a priority because it connects the Highland capital Inverness with central Scotland – and also because of the high number of accidents.
Construction on the first section of dualling, 7.5km from Kincraig to Dalraddy, was started in 2015 and opened 2017. Only one other section has been completed, the 9.6km from Luncarty to Pass of Birnam which opened in 2021. Meanwhile, nine sections remain to be built.