Ken Skates, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport
This written statement provides an update on the findings of the commercial project review for the A465, Section 2.
As you are no doubt aware, the Welsh Government is delivering a package of hugely ambitious improvements to dual 40km of the A465 between Abergavenny and Hirwaun. The project includes a scheme to widen the road between Gilwern and Brynmawr - Section 2.
Section 2 is a very challenging project including widening 8km of the existing A465 alongside live traffic within a very constrained site through the steep sided, environmentally sensitive Clydach Gorge. Construction work on this scheme started in early 2015, by the design and build contractor Costain Ltd. The scheme had an original planned completion date of 2018, later adjusted to 2019.
The site topography, traffic management requirements and complex ground conditions has meant that Costain have found the project far more difficult to deliver than they originally envisaged and planned for. As a result, I requested a comprehensive commercial project review be carried out. My officials have now completed that exercise and advised me that the project position is as follows:
- The project is delivering to employment, social and environmental expectations and;
The completion date for the entire scheme will be the autumn of 2019.
In order to ensure that the benefits of the project are delivered as soon as possible, the project team is pursuing an option to fully complete the eastern half of the project by October 2018, with the outstanding more technically challenging section covering the Clydach Gorge and the Brynmawr area being completed over the remaining period.
To achieve this will require a number of weekend closures in 2018, as has been the case this year in order to complete critical activities within the Clydach Gorge.
- The scheme is currently projected to be delivered 23% over the approved budget.
I am very disappointed by this but my officials are actively managing this overspend to identify ways of mitigating the project position. As part of this work, Welsh Government is currently in dispute with Costain on a number of matters around the allocation of risk in the contract to ensure they are only paid what they are contractually entitled to.
I understand that this news will be concerning for those living and working in the area and I am very grateful for their continued patience and understanding while we deliver the scheme. Public exhibitions are commencing today at the site offices in Gilwern. Project team members will be available to provide stakeholders with an update on the scheme, to give an opportunity to raise concerns and offer an opportunity to take a trip around the site and see the work done to date.
While significant, these shorter term impacts need to be balanced against the long term benefits of this very important scheme once completed. The scheme has very impressive features, in particular some of the bridges being built and the environmental measures being put in place. It will look spectacular when finished and I am confident that it will bring real improvements to the area in terms of traffic flow, safety and accessibility.