TRANSPORT Infrastructure Ireland (TII) has been unable to offer assurances on a timeline for the completion of the Dunkettle Interchange and has stressed it will not award a contract at “any cost”.
The state agency has said that there is no current delay in the upgrade but it is involved in a process with contractors to establish target costs and progress to phase two of the project.
If an agreement is not reached the project will have to be retendered which could lead to a 12 to 18-month delay.
Costs are expected to will go above the €100m originally estimated. However, discussions with the contractor are said to be at a “commercially sensitive” stage and any overrun will need Ministerial approval.
The taxpayer has limited liability for overrun costs, it has been established.
Appearing before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport Tourism and Sport, TII CEO Michael Nolan confirmed that the project will have to be retendered if an agreement is not reached.
Mr Nolan told the committee: “There has been speculation in the media with regard to [the] cost of the Dunkettle Interchange project in recent weeks. Since we are in an on-going process, TII cannot offer any more clarity relating to cost or budgets until the process has concluded.
“Notwithstanding the strategic importance of this project – both locally and nationally - it is certainly not a question of awarding the contract at any cost.
“It is a question of achieving the goal of constructing a fit-for-purpose Interchange scheme with the maximum value for taxpayers’ money. TII is committed to ensuring that this goal is achieved,” Mr Nolan added.
Mr Nolan assured the committee that works already undertaken will be unaffected.
“If the target cost is agreed, the process remains on schedule. On the other hand, if TII and the contractor do not agree the target cost, then Stage 2 will be removed from the contract and TII will return to the marketplace... The construction of the project will then be the subject of a new procurement process.
“I would, however, emphasise that the site investigation, planning and design work that has been undertaken by the contractor in Stage 1 will be used, as TII has retained ownership of this information. A new tender process has the potential to delay project completion by some 12-18 months,” Mr Nolan added.
Mr Nolan told the committee that mini contracts for gas and drainage diversions and cycling infrastructure could be utilised to ensure work is done on-site while the main contract is retendered to ensure delays are minimised.
Responding to fears from Committee chair Kevin O’Keeffe that the Macroom Bypass, M28 and Cork to Limerick motorway could be affected by delays to the Dunkettle project, TII head of roads capital programme Geraldine Fitzpatrick said individual projects are developed by different teams of people and delays do not impact on other projects.