DUBLIN'S PORT Tunnel construction contract has been awarded at almost twice the budgeted price and rules out the use of the New Austrian Tunnelling Method.
The scheme was approved by the Irish Government in 1994 but only after savings were made by incorporating a 2.4km section of NATM lining and realigning the tunnel to make it shorter. The project was expected to cost £78M.
But only one of the five tenderers offered NATM.
The £265M winning bid from the Irishenco/Mowlem/Nishimatsu consortium will use two tunnel boring machines to drive the twin 4.5km motorway tunnels. Design is by consultants Charles Haswell and Carl Bro.
The latest price hike is likely to worry the Government after warnings in September that escalating tender prices could threaten the country's £15bn infrastructure programme.
But according to client the Dublin Corporation, the winning bid was the lowest price.
'This is a reasonable price, and the funding has already been allocated by the National Roads Authority, ' said deputy project engineer Hugh Creegan.
The decision on tunnelling methods was left to the bidders, he added. NATM had never been a stipulation, with all methods considered. Inflation, local contractors working to full capacity and answering local residents'concerns had all added to the cost, he said.
The route change put the tunnel under 300 houses in the suburb of Marino. Residents objected to use of NATM under their homes following the Heathrow Express collapse.
Marino Development Action Group secretary Fintan Cassidy said: 'We are extremely pleased. The dropping of NATM is a huge victory for us.'