Thursday 22 August 2019

TII chiefs to be quizzed on interchange

Concerns that cost overrun could further delay the project

Traffic build up around the Dunkettle Interchange
Traffic build up around the Dunkettle Interchange

Bill Browne

Concern over the spiralling cost of the multi-million Dunkettle Interchange project has prompted a call for the body responsible for the scheme to outline its current status to the Oireachtas Transport Committee.

Cork East Fianna Fail TD Kevin O'Keeffe, who is vice-chair of the committee, has called on senior officials from Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to brief its members amid fears that the project maybe delayed or maybe even mothballed.

Deputy O'Keeffe made the call following reports that the project may be at risk of being stalled by up to 18-months unless a new pricing structure can be hammered out.

The upgrading of the interchange, the busiest road junction outside of the capital, was initially projected to cost €100 million. However, this has now increased to €115 million and there are fears that it could rise as high as €170 million. 

Deputy O'Keeffe said that comments by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar had done little to quell those concerns. While Mr Varadkar pledged that the project "is going to happen", he did not rule out the possibility of delays saying that the current high construction inflation rates were driving up constructions costs. 

"I understand now that TII is assessing the tender and there are negotiations (with the contractor) about a fair price. I would hope that any delay (in the project), if there is one, would be minimal," he said. 

Deputy O'Keeffe said the reports that the project may be stalled were worrying, particularly coming on the back of what he described as the Taoiseach's "dismissive" comments to Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin when he tried to raise the issue in the Dáil.

"The Dunkettle Interchange is such an important project that it cannot be allowed to fail. It caters for 100,000 vehicles daily and anyone who uses the route or even listens in to the radio knows it is one of the biggest congestion blackspots in Cork. The upgrading works have been plagued with delays and the people of Cork have waited long enough," he said. 

"I want to make sure that TII come before the Oireachtas Committee this side of the summer recess and certainly ahead of any budget being announced." 

Deputy O'Keeffe said it was also important that the Government was "called to account" in implementing its National Development Plan, saying this project was a "vital cog" in the future development of the entire southern region. 

"I will be requesting that the Chair of the Committee invites them to come in and explain the current situation with regards to the financing of the project. One thing is for sure, it cannot be scrapped,"  he said.