Luas faces delay until 2005 - rail agency
31/08/03 SB Post
By Sean Mac Carthaigh, Political Reporter
Dubliners may not be travelling on the Luas until 2005, and the project is in danger of degenerating into a bitter row between client and contractor, the state agency in charge of building the light rail system has admitted.
Frank Allen, the chief executive of the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) wrote to Eoin Ryan TD, the head of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, saying the body did not know when the project would be finished or how much it would cost.
He said he feared a "collapse into mutual recrimination between client and contractor" that could last "several years".
This weekend, Ryan warned
that the Luas faced the prospect becoming "a fiasco", and demanded urgent action by the RPA.
In 1996, the government said the Luas would be built for Â»220 million (e279 million), and that it would be in operation by 2001. Two years ago, the cost had more than doubled to â‚¬635 million and the start date put back to 2003.
Now, sources say the cost is headed for â‚¬1 billion, and that the two unconnected lines will not be in service before 2005.
Ryan wrote to the RPA earlier this month expressing alarm at traffic delays, missed construction deadlines and poor site management.
In his letter of reply, Allen said he shared Ryan's fears about missed deadlines, and added: "RPA is endeavouring to receive credible assurances regarding schedules to completion." He said the RPA was now trying to avoid the project being derailed because of a bitter row over who was to blame for delays.
Playing fast and Luas
By Sean Mac Carthaigh, Political Correspondent
The state agency in charge of building the Luas light rail system does not know when it will be finished or how much it will cost, and fears a "collapse into mutual recrimination between client and contractor" that could last "several years".
A letter from Frank Allen, chief executive of the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) to Eoin Ryan TD, chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Transport, reveals that the project is now in deep trouble.
Ryan this weekend warned that the Luas was in danger of becoming "a fiasco" and demanded that the RPA adopt a hands-on ap-proach. His committee is likely to summon key players to Leinster House
to explain themselves.
Ryan wrote to the RPA earlier this month expressing his alarm at the way the Luas project had evolved. He pointed to:
unnecessary traffic delays & missed construction deadlines
failure to deal with disrupted businesses
poor site management & lack of concern for pedestrians
the `hands-off' approach of the RPA
In the reply, Allen said he shared Ryan's fears about missed deadlines, and added: "This does give us cause for concern about the reliability of the contractor's completion dates for the overall project."
Allen said AMB JV, the contractor, had claimed that many delays had been caused by factors outside its control, such as additional requirements by local authorities, and archaeological finds.
"RPA is endeavouring to receive credible assurances regarding schedules to completion,"Allen said.
Such discussions and negotiations were part of all large infrastructure projects, he said, and the RPA was trying to maintain a balance between penalising underperformance and cooperating with the contractor to get the job finished.
He said that he believed that AMB JV had the experience and skills to complete the job "within the timeframe that the contractor has indicated to us", but said this would require "maximum commitment and application of resources".
But the RPA chief raised the spectre of the project being derailed by a row. "Major infrastructure projects sometimes collapse into mutual recrimination between client and contractor, with the merits of the arguments being resolved by an arbitrator several years hence," Allen wrote. "We are trying to avoid such a situation."
Ryan this weekend characterised the letter as "remarkable".
"I am amazed that such a major piece of infrastructural work has been allowed get to this situation," he said.
"There seems to be complete lackof hands-on management on the ground - and no concern about the effect it is having on the city.
"I can't understand why, when certain milestones were reached, action was not taken."
Ryan said the Luas was now "headed for a fiasco".
In the short term, Ryan said, there should be an urgent review, concentrating on how to minimise the disruption to the city.
"For example, there is never anyone there, on the ground, to move traffic," he said. "There should be 50 trained people, who know what is going on, and are on the ground at major roadworks in Dublin, to move traffic.
"We would be far better off with a designated corps like that than the proposed traffic police." He said the Luas failures could have a knock-on effect for other projects.
"One of the worrying things is that there are many proposals for major infrastructural work in Dublin and around the country, and if we don't learn from what has happened here there will be no appetite to complete them," he said.
"For example, there is the proposal to build an extra lane on the M50," Ryan said. "We have to convince people that these things can be done with minimum disruption. That is an absolute priority. We need to know we're not going to get ourselves into this fiasco again."
The train due at platform one is late and over budget
In 1996, the government aid the Luas would be built or Â»220 million (e279 mil- ion) and be in serviceby 2001. In 2001, formerMinister or Public Enterprise Mary O'Rourke conceded that the cost for the project had more han doubled to over Â»500 million (e635 million).
She predicted that trains would begin to run in 2003. As 2003 approached, the Minister for Transport, Seamus Brennan, said the budget had swelled to â‚¬675 million.
"I trust that everyone concerned will do all in their power to ensure no further delays will take place and that he construction of the system s completed at the earliest possible date, so that commu- ers will have access to ser- vices in the early months of 2004," he said. & In February 2003, The Sunday Business Post reported that the most conservative current estimate for he Luas was â‚¬800 million, and that this could easily bloat to â‚¬1 billion.
This newspaper also reported that only the Sandyford to St Stephen's Green line had any hope of being operational by mid-2004.
The letter dated August 26 from RPA chief executive Frank Allen indicates that Dubliners may not get to use the Luas until 2005 - if the project doesn't "collapse into mutual recrimination" to be resolved in "several years".