"Based on the fact that the Norwegian Directorate of Public Construction and Property (Statsbygg) has warned that the existing plans cannot be completed within the adopted financial framework, the Ministry of Education and Research requests that the project be reviewed with a view to significantly reducing costs," a letter from the Ministry sent to Statsbygg and the University in Oslo (UiO) in May reads.

Borten Moe told news bureau NTB that it is both unfortunate and unacceptable that the budget has been breached before the construction of the museum even started. 

"We're pulling the emergency brake a bit and telling Statsbygg and UiO that they must work together in the coming month with a view to coming back to us with a project that is within the approved cost framework."

Billion-kroner breach

Statsbygg and the University in Oslo have been given a deadline to deliver input to the Ministry by June 2. The goal is to scale down the project but at the same time ensure that the museum can secure Viking Age objects and satisfy the public's needs. 

"The days when the (Norwegian) state would pick up the bill for construction projects that go far beyond the cost framework is over," Minister Borten Moe added.

On February 8, Director of the University of Oslo Arne Benjaminsen informed the university board at the UiO that the new Viking Age Museum could be up to NOK 1 billion more expensive than budgeted. Initially, the museum had a cost framework of around NOK 2.14 billion. The new estimate shows that it could cost up to NOK 3.14 billion.

"The messages we have received from Statsbygg show that the reasons for the budget breach include the complexity of the project, the complexity of the building, the corona situation, and the increase in the market price of factors needed to finalize this building," Benjaminsen told the board.

Director warns against cuts

At the time, Benjaminsen also stated that cost cuts to bring the bill down to NOK 2.14 billion would lead to major changes, Uniforum reported in May.

"Such large cuts are involved that the project will not meet the goals that it should have as the future Viking Age Museum."

The Minister, for his part, believes that it should be possible to have a good Viking Age Museum within the framework of NOK 2.14 billion.

"My experience is that when people work well together, you can achieve a lot," Borten Moe said.

Starting the project again - from scratch?

He warned that there is a possibility that the project will have to be redone from scratch. 

"I hope we can come up with a project where we can preserve the concept. If we were to change the form and function of the project, we would lose a lot of time. But if one fails to realize this project within the framework the Norwegian parliament has set, then we will consider that possibility this summer."

The Ministry of Education and Research also noted that the groundwork related to the so-called "round building" design has to await further clarifications from the authorities. The goal is to deliver these clarifications in June. The ongoing temporary work on securing Viking artifacts, including the Viking ships, is to continue as before.

"Important for Norway"

"The construction project itself is very important for Norway. It will preserve the Viking ships and the surrounding objects, which are a completely unique part of Norwegian and European cultural heritage. They are unique objects, and they deserve to be taken care of," Borten Moe noted.

The Minister has previously made demands to NTNU to cut costs for the new campus project, which has a price tag of NOK 11.7 billion.

In response to Borten Moe's statements, Statsbygg said that it now has to think up new plans in relation to the museum project.

"We are interested in realizing this project within the cost framework that has been set and want to do that in collaboration with the University of Oslo," communications director Hege Njaa Aschim in Statsbygg told NTB.

Statsbygg had originally planned for the museum to be completed by 2026.

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