The Government has been accused of failing to deliver key infrastructure projects to the south of the country as the long-awaited €100m upgrade of the Dunkettle interchange has been stalled again due to spiralling costs.
The criticism follows confirmation that Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) is to tender for the construction stage of the Cork project as it could not agree on the costs with Sisk, the company that has carried out preparatory work on the Dunkettle interchange upgrade to date.
A statement from TII said “both parties remain committed to advancing the project”, but admitted that the need to move to tender for the construction contract will push back the estimated completion date by 12 months to 2023. However, the Construction Industry Federation warns putting the project back to tender may set it back by more than 10 years.
TII cited “worse-than- anticipated ground conditions and the consequent increase in scope” as the reason it will go back to the market to find a contractor to take on the construction stage of the process. It said the funds to complete the project have been ringfenced and the value of the contract will be confirmed once the tendering process is complete. However, it has been speculated recently that the estimated cost of the upgrade has spiralled from initial estimates of €100m to more than €170m.
In May 2017, a contract notice for the tender showed the value of the project was estimated at €77m before Vat, though the contract award notice last November revealed the pre-Vat value of the procurement was subsequently listed as €88.5m.
Last month, therevealed that a document prepared by TII raised concerns that “at this early stage of assessment, there are areas of significant differences with the contractor in relation to pricing rates submitted”.
The delay has been met with widespread criticism, with Cork Chamber claiming “business in Cork is losing faith in the ability of government to deliver”, particularly as other infrastructure and housing projects are dependent on the completion of the interchange.
“The inability to complete key national infrastructure projects such as Dunkettle interchange on time is an immense concern to our members,” said Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy.
Serious questions need to be asked around the estimating process for the National Development Plan leading to unrealistic expectations around costs and the degree of appetite to deliver on projects which have been committed by the State.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said that Cork “is losing out as a result of this Government’s complete mismanagement of capital projects” and the latest delay “raised serious questions about the way this process has been handled”.
“This upgrade was promised over five years ago but has been plagued by missed deadlines and increasing costs,” Mr Martin said. “The transport minister must clarify the degree to which he believes savings will be made as a result of this decision. He must also outline how the project was allowed to reach this sorry stage when red flags had been raised at various stages of the process.”
CIF director Conor O’Connell said the Dunkettle delay is “an example of the continuing delay to many projects in the southwest.
He said: “Over the last 10 years, no strategic infrastructural project has been delivered in the region that has the fastest growing population and jobs growth outside of the Dublin region, accounting for 20% of GDP. It is extraordinary that the State continuously neglects the obvious infrastructural deficits in the region.”
TII said it will continue to work with Sisk by starting advance works in October on diverting gas, electric, telecoms and water lines, and building a new link road with a separated cycleway and pedestrian path that will connect the N8 Cork City road with the M8 Cork to Dublin motorway.