Re: Re: where is the tunnel

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Paul Clerkin

Outrage as opening of €800m tunnel is put on hold

PERSISTENT leaks have put the opening of the €800m Dublin Port Tunnel on indefinite hold.

The project is now more than two years overdue and it has missed at least four separate completion deadlines.

But the National Roads Authority (NRA) insisted yesterday: “It will take as long as it takes.”

The authority claimed the delay was due to the need for more safety checks.

However, the Irish Independent can reveal that a team of workers is still battling to repair what appear to be an endless series of leaks.

There was outrage from politicians last night at the news that a final opening date for the tunnel was as uncertain as ever.

A team of specialist Spanish engineers, called Setco, flew in at the start of the year to repair leaks. They were originally expected to leave in a matter of weeks, but they are still working hard on other leaks four months on.

The indefinite delay is bound to cause further embarrassment to the Government and Transport Minister Martin Cullen.

The embarrassment will be all the more acute this week as they announce a so-called super-transport authority for the greater Dublin area.

Last night Fine Gael’s Dublin spokesman Brian Hayes branded the delays as “absolutely shocking”.

He said it was a “bad sign” that, after two years of delays, work on the tunnel is still incomplete. “We’d be wondering if there are more structural problems with this that they’re not letting on about,” he said.

Labour Party transport spokeswoman Roisin Shortall sharply criticised Mr Cullen over the delays.

“Whenever Martin Cullen is questioned about this, he kicks it to touch and blames Dublin City Council or the NRA,” she said.

A joint inspection report on the tunnel completed at the end of May revealed several areas were leaking, and in more than one spot. One area had three leaks in the space of one square metre, while other sites had leaks in sections 20 metres wide.

The amount of water emerging in the tunnel ranged from “minor” to “very wet”, according to the report.

The centre of the tunnel stretches under the Alfie Byrne Road in the Whitehall area, which is the worst affected.

The report also found that the total extent of cracks in the tunnel – a major cause of the leaks – at that time added up to 491 metres.

This report was completed jointly by Setco along with the NRA, Dublin City Council and the main contractor on the tunnel, Nishimatsu Mowlem Irishenco.

Many of these leaks have been repaired since May, including a major leak which took several months to repair.

It is also understood that an 800-metre-long stretch of the tunnel that was tarred less than two weeks ago will have to be pulled up and redone.

This follows concern that the tar did not set correctly in the tunnel, which has already had to have work redone twice or even three times in a number of areas, such as at Fairview Park.

Work on the tunnel has also been hit by an ongoing row in which the tunnel builders are seeking more money from Dublin City Council.

The extra cost is believed to be in the region of €200m – down from an initial claim for €444m.

However, the city council still insists the taxpayer will not be paying any of this and the tunnel will cost €752m.

A spokesman for the NRA did not refer to ongoing problems in the tunnel but said safety checks, which began in June, were the final step in the massive project.

He said: “It will take as long as it takes.”

He added: “We are at a critical stage of completion by going through a full safety training measure and safety testing.

“We are looking to make sure safety is paramount. How long it will take is determined by what the safety requirements.”

A Dublin City Council spokesperson could not be reached for comment on other reasons for the delay.

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