Companies are unlikely to tender for the £1.1bn second Forth road crossing unless the cost of putting their bids together is underwritten by the taxpayer, Scottish Government officials were told in a Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday afternoon.
Scottish Labour’s David Whitton has condemned the Scottish government for effectively bribing companies to tender for the contract for the new Forth road crossing.
“Scottish tax payers are effectively being asked to fork out tens of millions of pounds because big business doesn’t trust the SNP to deliver this project,” said Whitton.
“Officials told us that the construction firms interested in this contract would be reluctant to bid if they felt that Parliament may reject the Forth Road Bridge Bill or if there was a chance the Government would not go ahead with the project.
“They also said it would cost around £10M to put together a bid. If the bridge does not go ahead we were being asked to underwrite the cost of the tender process, which could amount to £30M given that three separate tenders would be sought. What was more astonishing was the revelation that even if the bridge does go ahead the two losing tenders would be able to claim up to £5M for their failed bid.”
Transport Scotland head of major infrastructure projects Ainslie McLouglin insisted that the project was attracting widespread interest.
“Expressions of interest are due back the end of the month. Invitations to Competitive Dialogue will be issued in early December. It remains the number one priority for government.
We have had 39 notes of interest and requests for the prequalification documents, including request from most, if not all, of the major European contractors
Transport Scotland head of major infrastructure projects Ainslie McLouglin
“We have had 39 notes of interest and requests for the prequalification documents, including request from most, if not all, of the major European contractors. We’re attracting good interest for our projects - there is perhaps a little more competition than when the market was at its hottest 18 months ago. We are seeing more contractors chasing contracts. We are seeing more interest.”
Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) welcomed the move to offer reimbursements to failed bidders.
“This is a welcome and positive sign that Transport Scotland appreciates the very considerable cost to contractors in terms of resources committed in tendering for a project as large as the Replacement Forth Crossing,” said CECA (Scotland) Chief Executive Alan Watt.
“We hope that Transport Scotland will indeed implement this measure and consider doing so for future major infrastructure projects across Scotland and that other clients will follow suit.”