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Cost overruns and downturn threaten Irish roads programme

BIG CUTBACKS on Ireland's roads programme are expected after a leaked report revealed massive cost overruns.

Consultants are expected to bear the brunt of the downturn in work, as jobs at planning stage are likely be chopped.

The report for the Irish Department of Finance says the costs of the planned £6bn road spend under the National Development Plan have rocketed to over £9bn.

The report blames the cost overrun on poor estimating, tender inflation, increased construction costs, planning delays and late starts. Other factors included the foot and mouth crisis and a dispute with farmers which prevented access to land.

The roads budget will also be cut because of an economic slowdown in the Republic, meaning lower tax receipts for government coffers.

The National Roads Authority budget to be announced in December is expected to show a bleak outlook for the sector.

Consultants involved in projects at early stages, or in jobs away from Dublin, fear they will be worst hit. The fact that there have been no new road projects started this year has already caused concern among UK consultants that set up offices in Ireland to respond to the expected road building boom.

'The outlook is rather grim, ' said Scott Wilson Scotland and Ireland managing director Jim McCafferty. 'Although we were relatively late entrants into the Irish market, the downturn in the roads sector means we have to review our operations there.'

Construction Confederation European director John Bromley said: 'It is very disappointing that there have been cutbacks.'

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