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'Tricky' museum project frightens off contractors

Plans to build a futuristic-looking museum in Glasgow are in doubt after contractors snubbed the job amid fears costs will spiral out of control.

The building has been designed by high-profile architect Zaha Hadid and the news mirrors concerns the Government had late last year over the Olympic Games aquatic centre also designed by the Iraqiborn architect.

The £75 million scheme attracted controversy in December when culture minister Tessa Jowell sent back plans for the pool after claiming it had almost doubled in budget.

Now the Glasgow project looks set to be hit by its own problems after two of the original three bidders pulled out claiming it is too tricky to price.

Sources at Balfour Beatty and Sir Robert McAlpine told Construction News they are no longer looking at the project, which carries a £50 million price tag.

This is already £10 million more than the city council had planned after a report in January told councillors the extra cash was needed to maintain the building, which resembles a squiggle.

Contractors are worried that the transport museum could go the same way as another project in the city - a footbridge designed by Richard Rogers that was priced by Balfour Beatty and Sir Robert

McAlpine and bust the council's budget by as much as £20 million.

Plans for this have since been ripped up with the council imposing a £33 million ceiling on the new design.

One source said: 'The museum will look very nice once it's built but you have to get the price of that right otherwise you will catch a cold. If we're not careful it could resemble the bridge. It's not an easy thing to price and with so much work going on in Scotland, the question is: do we need the hassle?'

The council had planned to let the job as a two-stage tender but firms have complained the authority has interfered with the process too much.

Another source said: 'They mucked about with it and they've made a real mess of the tender. There's a lot of questions about price in the first stage and these should be in the second stage.

'We'll be interested if they change the form of procurement but at the moment we're not even at the track, let alone in the race.'

The withdrawals mean the council faces assessing a bid from just one firm, HBG. Potential replacements including Bovis Lend Lease and Laing O'Rourke have confirmed they are not pitching for the deal.

A spokesman at the council said: 'The tendering process is still ongoing and is due to finish in July. It wouldn't be appropriate for us to comment any further at this stage.'

The council is hoping work on the museum, which will be built where the river Clyde meets the river Kelvin, can start next January.

By David Rogers