MANCHESTER AIRPORT'S controversial £172M second runway is now at least 11 months late with first aircraft not due to land before February 2001.
Latest delays to the opening are believed to centre on design changes for runway services.
Talks to resolve hefty claims are under way between the main contractor and airport authorities.
The runway's £108M construction contract, let to an Amec-Tarmac joint venture, was originally due for completion by last January but only finished a month ago. Commissioning of runway navigational aids has now started with full commercial operation planned for next spring.
Client Manchester Airport has already awarded the JV seven month's contract extension. But since last August the contractor has faced potential liquidated damages of £250,000 a week - a penalty now totalling over £3.3M.
However, JV project manager Alan Roberts told NCE: 'We are in discussion with the client to resolve the situation but, so far, have not been asked to pay any liquidated damages.' He confirmed the overall delay but declined to discuss its cause.
The high profile three year project has been dogged by problems from the start. Hundred's of protesters invaded the site in its early days attempting to halt mass tree felling. Wet weather later repeatedly delayed earthworks.
Early last year, with construction running up to seven months late, a new contract was negotiated to set a 'firm' May 2000 completion date. In return the client agreed to waive liquidated damages then totalling £4M.
But more recently the start of runway concreting was delayed by another four months due, it is thought, to late design details from the client for runway equipment such as lighting.
This forced the contractor to lay 170,000m 3of high quality pavement concrete, plus 55,000t of asphalt surfacing - both planned as summertime operations - right through last winter.
Under the JV's design and build contract, acceleration and delay costs, including bad weather, should be born by the contractor. Claims have to show that client-imposed design changes affected progress.
The client was unavailable for comment earlier this week.