TDs blast €200m cost of Limerick Tunnel

TDs are demanding that a detailed cost review of the Limerick Tunnel transport development is immediately published after officials admit the full cost may exceed €200m.

Members of the cross-party Dáil Public Accounts Committee (PAC) asked for the information to be released urgently amid serious questions over the “insane” costs, and the level of transparency on how public money is being spent.

Speaking during a lengthy PAC meeting which also heard concerns that Cork Institute of Technology has spent tens of millions of euro on buildings that are “now falling down”, TDs said that there is a clear need for public private partnership transparency.

And their concerns were raised even further when it emerged that the Limerick Tunnel will cost at least €200m despite no clear cost-benefit analysis being published about the project.

Asked by Labour TD Alan Kelly about the cost of the tunnel, which was opened in 2010 and which reroutes traffic from the city underneath the River Shannon, Transport Infrastructure Ireland official Michael Kennedy said conservative predictions reach €200m.

Mr Kennedy is Transport Infrastructure Ireland’s public-private partnership and finance manager. He said that while the project has cost €31.4m to date, it is widely expected to cost a further €170m in the years ahead, dramatically raising the full cost.

Asked by Mr Kelly “is that not just insane?”, Mr Kennedy defended the expenditure by saying it has taken away traffic from the city.

After Mr Kelly repeated his belief that the costs “here are astronomical”, Mr Kennedy said: “We did assess it and I will confirm we did do a re-examination of the scheme.”

However, the official admitted that this cost-benefit analysis review has yet to be published, leading Mr Kelly to claim the situation is “crazy” and pointedly telling his counterpart: “I look forward to the review’s publication.”

During the same PAC meeting, Mr Kelly and Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry also raised concerns over two other multi-million euro public-private partnership projects at CIT.

In recent years, management there has agreed to public-private partnership deals to help build and develop the Maritime Institute and other buildings on its campus.

However, questions continue to be raised by whistle- blowers and construction experts about the quality of the buildings, with Department of Education officials yesterday admitting to the PAC that the problems exist.

Department of Education secretary general Sean Ó Foghlú said: “Yes, there are questions there” and raised issues over “internal walls”. A department colleague said: “There is an assessment at the moment.”

Raising similar concerns about the project, Fianna Fáil TD Marc MacSharry, said thee department “needs to up your game” on ensuring value for money in public-private partnerships.

After saying he has obtained a missing page from a whistleblower’s report detailing concerns, Mr MacSharry was shouted down before saying a detailed cost review is needed.

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