The final section of the Aberdeen bypass will not be opened before Christmas, the Transport Secretary has confirmed.
All work on the 36-mile Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) was initially set to be completed by spring, but it was delayed to autumn, and then until December.
Contractors have confirmed to MSPs that the total cost of the bypass would top £1 billion as delays to the project have resulted in hundreds of millions of additional costs.
The rest of the bypass has been open to traffic since last week, and the entire route was due to be opened on Wednesday.
However it has now been announced that the final 4.5-mile section between Parkhill and Craibstone was not completed on time by contractor Aberdeen Roads Limited (ARL).
Transport Secretary Michael Matheson said: “This week, ARL informed us it was no longer able to meet its own deadline of concluding works at the Don Crossing before Christmas.
“This is just over a fortnight since it set this deadline publicly in Parliament. I have consistently urged caution and realism about ARL’s ambitious timescales.
“Unfortunately, as disappointing as this news is, it comes as no surprise to me it has been unable to achieve this.
“We have been here before with ARL. My officials and I will continue to work constructively and offer every assistance to get the remaining 4.5 miles open as soon as possible.
“I also want to pay tribute to the workforce who have undoubtedly been working hard during this most challenging time of year.
“It is well known that ARL has experienced a series of technical issues during the construction of the Don Crossing.
“In order for this Government to protect the public purse, it is imperative that ARL provides the necessary technical and commercial assurances for the Don Crossing.
“We cannot and will not contemplate releasing payments for this structure without these critical assurances.”
The full bypass is now expected to be opened in January.
Scottish Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald condemned the Scottish Government for announcing the delay to the AWPR after the Scottish Parliament closed for Christmas.
Mr Macdonald said: “Ministers admitted that they have known since Tuesday that the promise given to open the Don Crossing on the AWPR in December would not be met yet kept this further failure secret until the very end of First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood (on Thursday).
“This cynical ploy shows a profound disrespect for Parliament and a complete failure on the part of SNP ministers to be accountable to the people of Scotland.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Mike Rumbles said: “The minister has announced so many delays to the opening of the AWPR that he might as well try donning a yellow vest and redirecting traffic himself.
“A bungled agreement with the contractor has kept finished sections of road unopened, while costs have soared.
“The Scottish Government’s handling of the AWPR project has been utterly incompetent. They owe the people of the North East an apology.”