Consortium to build new Forth bridge
The Scottish government has announced the preferred bidder for the Forth Replacement Crossing.
The Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors Consortium has been chosen ahead of Forthspan, which had also been bidding for the contract.
It follows an 18-month tender process. The bid for the design-and-build contract is valued at £790m.
Ministers said the condition of the existing bridge, linking Edinburgh and Fife, was deteriorating.
The new Forth road bridge is due for completion by 2016.
The Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors (FCBC) consortium is made up of Dragados, Hochtief, American Bridge International and Morrison Construction.
The consortium said it would cost £1.47bn to £1.62bn, a reduction on the project's original estimated cost of £1.7bn to £2.3bn.
Finance Secretary John Swinney said: "The Forth Replacement Crossing project will be essential in protecting and promoting Scotland's sustainable economic growth, safeguarding a vital link in the country's transport infrastructure, protecting thousands of jobs and securing over £1bn in economic revenue.
"I was therefore delighted to inform parliament this morning that the tender period for the FRC Principal contract has now concluded.
"The successful FCBC consortium includes world-class bridge building and civil engineering firms with strong records of successfully delivering similar projects throughout the world.
"It is a testament to the robust competition we put in place that it has delivered a bid representing a significant saving for Scotland's capital budget.
"It is particularly pleasing to see that this bid will annually provide 45 vocational training positions, 21 professional body training places and 46 positions for the long term unemployed."
The Scottish Conservatives welcomed the announcement, saying the bridge would "create a unique trio of crossings from the 19th, 20th and 21st Centuries across the Forth - a remarkable working tribute to Scottish engineering and design".
'Fix the bridge'
However, critics said the government should have saved money by repairing the current bridge.
Lawrence Marshall, chairman of the ForthRight Alliance, a coalition of groups opposed to the construction of a Second Forth Road Bridge, said: "This is the worst kind of political 'fix'. The government should fix the bridge instead."
He added: "With clear evidence that the 'drying out' of the current bridge's main cables is proceeding according to plan and with a further inspection of the cables planned for this autumn, incoming MSPs may wish to consider whether building this additional crossing is in fact now required and whether the huge amount of public money needed to fund this project could not better be spent."
MSPs from the Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green parties have signed a motion urging a delay until the new government is elected.
Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: "It is unprecedented to award a contract of this scale after parliament has dissolved."
Patrick Harvie MSP, from the Scottish Green Party, said: "The routine and uncontroversial business of government has to continue, but this decision is anything but: it's an extravagant, unnecessary and unpopular project being awarded by the SNP as an election stunt."