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Concerns about the Port Askaig Reconstruction

Much has been said and written about this project which is way overdue and way over budget. People on Islay are concerned about this which resulted in a letter from Catriona Bell to Andrew Law, Director of Operational Services for Argyll & Bute Council. The Ileach published the reply to this letter in their last issue:

Andrew Law, Director Of Operational Services, Argyll and Bute Council: The frustration felt by the residents of Islay for the long delays in completing this project is shared by the Council and the officers responsible for implementing the work. However, it must be recognised that this is a very complex project and there are many factors outwith the control of the Council that have delayed it. The public meeting was on 23rd October 2006. This was a meeting held to inform the public of what was expected to happen during the forthcoming construction works. The information given was based on the requirements of the contract and the expectation at that time was that these would be met.

The marine works at Port Askaig were complex and in recognition of this the Council engaged a specialist marine works consultant to design and supervise the construction of the works. It is therefore inappropriate to imply that Council officers are at fault. There was a significant delay in reopening the pier to the mainland ferry. This was due to a variety of causes. Many of them are contractual issues and I cannot discuss them in detail until completion of the works and settlement of these issues between the Contractor and the Council. However, you will recall that the pier was actually closed due to the structural condemnation of the old linkspan. This closure was earlier than that required by the contractor and contributed to the extension of the closure period. If the Council had not been promoting the upgrading of Port Askaig this failure of the linkspan would have closed the port for many months. During the closure the Council maintained close liaison with Cal-Mac who advised all their customers of the position regarding the ferry sailings. This approach was felt to be more effective than issuing public notices as it targeted the users directly. The greatest difficulty during the closure period was predicting when the pier at Port Askaig would reopen. For this the Council was totally dependent upon the information supplied by the contractor and on how well he was able to meet his predicted programme. This was further complicated by additional work required from unforeseen changes to the expected ground conditions. Continue reading.....Since the pier reopened to the Cal-Mac sailings there have been no further delays to the mainland ferry users caused by the works. In November and early December I understand there have been significant diversions of the ferry from Port Ellen to Port Askaig despite the continuing construction work. Upgrading major infrastructure such as Port Askaig cannot be done without some disruption to users but it is these users who will benefit on completion of the project. Every effort has been made to keep the public informed when events will affect their travelling. You have implied a failure to manage budgets and timescales by the principal roads engineer. This is incorrect. The timescales on this project have been governed by many external factors not all of which can be controlled by Council staff; these include a public inquiry, difficulties obtaining the necessary land entries and the performance of the contractors carrying out the construction. The budgets are being managed with the Council well aware of the increasing costs and taking the appropriate action to secure additional funding. With projects of this scale running over long periods of time the Council becomes something of a hostage to fortune. It cannot always control the rising costs of carrying out unforeseen works and must pay the current market prices or stop the works. Your reference to the 40mph speed limit on heavy lorries is again misplaced. On public highways it is not the responsibility of the principal roads engineer to take any enforcement action. This is the responsibility of the police. It is the dedication and commitment of Council staff, backed by the Council’s political process, that enabled this project to happen. They were the people who bid for and secured the initial funding under the Public Transport Funds. They dealt with the difficult design problems, produced the solution, pushed the project through the planning inquiry and have continued to deal with all the project’s associated problems.

You have requested an explanation of the time and associated cost increases. In 1999 when the bid was prepared for Public Transport Funding the costs were estimated at £5,500,000. This was based on an outline idea and not detailed design. The design work proved far more complex than envisaged through meeting suggestions and requirements of SNH and SEPA. There were cost and time commitments greater than planned due to disposal of the surplus excavated materials and the need to take the design through a public inquiry. Additional costs were also incurred as the design revisions led to the need to replace two dwelling houses. These factors delayed the start of phase 1 from an expected 2001 to July 2003. The first phase construction works cost £3,300,000. The second phase was delayed until October 2006 by legal issues relating to land entry. The tender value of the phase 2 works came in at double the estimate that had been advised by the consultant carrying out the design. This however was a trend throughout Scotland where the costs of Marine works had been rising significantly. Current estimates are Phase 1 £5,200,000, Phase 2 is estimated to cost £6,500,000 and Phase 3 £1,000,000 giving a project cost of £12,700,000. The project is taking 9 years to complete. I trust this information meets your needs.


The first phase of the reconstruction

Added note by the Ileach: The letter from Andrew Law defending the record of Argyll and Bute Council over the 'complex project' at Port Askaig makes depressing reading. You will note that the Council 'engaged a specialist marine works consultant to design and supervise' and therefore what has happened is 'outwith the control of the Council'. So the Council are blaming the consultant that they appointed. You will further note that other points cannot be discussed until there has been 'settlement of these issues between the Contractor and the Council.' So the Council are blaming the contractor as well. Mr Law further claims that 'Since the pier reopened to the CalMac sailings there have been no further delays to the mainland ferry users caused by the works'. Ferry users will be well aware that this is a very long way from being correct - indeed significant delays continue to this day. The problem, of which Mr Law appears unaware, is that the Jura ferry berth is not complete, and so the Jura ferry is having to use the main berth. When that berth is so occupied, the CalMac ferry cannot use it. This has caused, and continues to cause, all manner of delays, which have been, and continue to be, publicly highlighted by CalMac. This has been, and continues to be a significant problem that has resulted in considerable additional costs to island hauliers and inconvenience to the travelling public.

Tag: port askaig ferry council

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