THE NEW Queensferry Crossing is set to be built for £200 million less than expected, the Scottish Government announced today.
The bill for the new bridge has been reduced from an estimated £1.6 billion to as low as £1.4 billion.
Project managers expect the bridge, which is due for completion by 2016, to be finished for no more than £1.45bn.
The news has fuelled hopes that the bridge is on track to avoid the costly overruns that have dogged the Edinburgh trams and Scottish Parliament projects.
The successful management of the project and the “delivery of key milestones” has been credited for the savings.
Diane Brown, project manager of pro-business group Queensferry Ambition, said: “I’m sure there were fears that it could turn into a tram or Scottish Parliament [fiasco]. Obviously that’s not going to be the case, so that’s great.
“They’ve been pretty good at community engagement with the bridge, and I think the local community has not had the disruption they expected.”
Edinburgh has built an unenviable reputation for overspending on large infrastructure projects over the past decade.
The cost of the trams network has soared from an original estimate of £375m to £776m, with plans for three routes scaled back to just one eight-mile line across that time, while the Scottish Parliament building opened three years late and at a cost ten times more than the original budget.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said today the new bridge project was supporting the Scottish economy.: “Ninety per cent of supply orders and nearly 60 per cent of sub contracts have been awarded to 365 Scottish firms and around 874 people are employed on site.
“While there is no room for complacency, these latest figures show that Scotland’s biggest infrastructure project in a generation is being well managed.”
However, rivals moved to discredit today’s announcement.
Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said the Government had simply homed in on the overall cost, and not made savings.
“Initially, the Scottish Government said the bridge would cost as little as £1.45bn,” he said.
“Today, the Scottish Government has revealed the bridge could cost as much as £1.45bn. To dress it up any other way is a nonsense.”
Lothians Green MSP Alison Johnstone - an ardent critic of the crossing - called for the savings to be poured into cycling and walking projects, including paying for the £3m needed to transform Leith Walk.
“Then at least something positive will have come from this flawed project,” she said.