NRA has Cost-Overruns of €16 Billion According to Tarawatch

October 14, 2008

Tarawatch has stated that the National Roads Authority (NRA) has a €16 billion cost-overrun. It said it will lodge a complaint against the NRA with the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG).

“The C&AG has primary responsibility for ensuring value for money in public spending,” TaraWatch spokesman Vincent Salafia said.  “It should not allow one penny to be spent until there has been cost-benefit analysis and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on every single road plan.  “It is illegal and disgraceful for the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) to now negotiate more cost-plus, rather than fixed-price contracts, and a continuation of business as usual.  This is a reference to the

Mr Parlon used his insider knowledge to get €150m of building contracts approved which do not contain new “better value for money” provisions, documents obtained by the Irish Independent under the Freedom of Information Act reveal.

The former minister of state, who now earns €250,000 a year as director general of the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), got an agreement from Finance Minister Brian Lenihan to go ahead with 50 key projects under old-style ‘costs plus’ contracts.

This is despite the fact that the projects should have been carried out under new fixed-price contracts, which were brought in to achieve better value for money for taxpayers.

These contracts were introduced last year in a bid to curb massive overspending on key road and infrastructure projects. Under the old ‘costs plus’ model, builders could add on extra bills on top of the agreed contract if they ran into problems during construction.

According to the documents obtained from the Department of Finance, Mr Parlon sent a strongly worded letter to Mr Lenihan last May warning him of the “expense and disruption” that builders would face if the water service contracts were changed from ‘costs plus’ to ‘fixed price’ ones.

“I cannot overstress the importance of this matter to the industry,” he said. Mr Parlon denied his lobbying had resulted in builders benefiting at the expense of the taxpayer – who is now left exposed to the potential of cost overruns in the projects.

He told the Irish Independent that it had not been the fault of builders that local authorities had persisted in using old-style contracts instead of fixed-price contracts.

“Our members tendered at substantial expense and then all of a sudden a circular went out from the Department of Finance and it became apparent they would be knocked on the head. It would have taken 12 to 15 months to re-tender and it was just common sense,” he said.

Mr Parlon said that the CIF had not been threatening the Government when it warned that not using old-style contracts would lead to “public disquiet”, but had only been pointing out the inevitable reaction from local councillors “They are bread-and-butter issues for them and you would obviously have that. We chose to do this very discreetly, we contacted the minister and alerted him to what was happening,” he said.

A spokesman for Mr Lenihan said he had made his decision so the projects, some of which had been in the pipeline for years, would not be delayed. He stated that the Government was “still committed” to using fixed-price contracts.

It is to be noted that claims that cost-overruns are a feature of past contracts is a regular PR device. In 2005, the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern stated in the Dail that cost control in some road construction projects in the past had not been ‘up to the mark’. Mr Ahern went on to state that changes in the contract procedures operated by the National Roads Authority now meant that projects were coming in on time and under cost. He said that these problems related to a time before structures had been put in place to cope with a rapidly expanding road building programme.

TaraWatch wants the C&AG to freeze all public spending on NRA projects under the National Development Plan, until a cost-benefit analysis has been carried out.

The C&AG has expressed concerns before about the spending controls on roads projects.  In 2002 the NRA was summoned before the Public Accounts Committee to explain a massive €6.6 billion overrun. By 2004, the overrun had gone up to €10 billion.  In 2005, PAC chairman Michael Noonan said the interim report would support Prime Time’s claims (‘The Money Pit that 30 road projects originally cost at €6 billion would end up costing the taxpayer €18 billion.

TaraWatch said an engineer’s report it commissioned, and submitted to the Department of Finance on Friday, shows how the M3 motorway will cost the taxpayer an additional €1.8 billion, and will be responsible for €320 million in emissions penalties.



New Landscape Guidelines for the Tara Skryne Valley are Meaningless

July 31, 2008

A  project to protect the landscape and improve planning decisions nationally is to be piloted in the Tara Skryne valley, Co Meath. It will be carried out by the Heritage Council in conjunction with Meath County Council, who will develop a landscape management plan and designate a landscape conservation area.

Initial funding of €25,000 is being provided by the Heritage Council and the local authority. Further funding is expected from the Department of the Environment next year. The end cost is expected to be about €125,000.

The project will begin in the autumn and is expected to be completed in 18 to 24 months, by which time the Highway will be completed. It will examine current and potential land use and develop a plan for the area. The project will have community input and will be led by Meath county council. It is unclear what is meant by “community input,” given the Irish Government’s record in implementing its own laws and regulations with regard to developments which it favours.

In Corrib, to give one relevant example, the Department of the Environment has granted permission to the Shell Oil to construct a key section of onshore pipeline without approval from An Bord Pleanála under the Strategic Infrastructure Act.

Shell EP Ireland and its consultants RPS had said earlier this summer that the entire onshore section would be submitted to An Bord Pleanála under the new fast-tracking legislation, apart from two estuary crossings which are regarded as “marine” and come under the Foreshore Act.

However, the Department of the Environment has stated that a high-pressure section at the Glengad landfall which runs under Dooncarton Mountain, location of a 2003 landslide, and across a public beach used by locals and tourists is “exempted” from planning approval under the Planning and Development Act 2000. Clearly, the Government is quite willing to exempt multinational corporations from planning procedures in order to facilitate the opening up of Ireland’s resources to exploitation.

In the Tara / Skryne Valley, the Lismullen Monument, which was a designated National Monument, is to be buried underneath the M3 Highway. The 2004 National Monuments Act grants the Minister for the Environment the right to order a monument’s demolition after an excavation.  Since the Lismullen Monument was undiscovered (according to the official story) until shortly before the offical commencement of works at the Highway, it is a fair bet that there are other monuments, which lie undiscovered around the Tara – Skrene Valley. These will be excavated, and demolished in their turn, to open up the Tara / Skrene Valley to whatever form of development is planned for the valley.

Heritage Council chief executive Michael Starrett described the landscape project as an important step towards the realisation of a national landscape strategy. “Landscape management is about accommodating change and development. It provides a much more holistic approach than the current model, to planning how we manage and develop the landscape where we live. It enables local communities to play an essential role in managing their own area, and has been very successful when introduced in other European countries.”

He said the project was about finding a successful model that could be applied to special landscapes across the State and another pilot was planned for the Burren, details of which will be announced later in the year.Separate studies published last year by the Heritage Council and Fáilte Ireland concluded there was an urgent need for clear guidelines on land use.

The studies also found that Ireland was the only country in Western Europe that had not specifically legislated for managing landscape on a national level. It is unclear whether the Heritage Council scheme will substitute for such legislation, or whether legislation will follow as a result. If there is no legislation, then the Heritage Council guidelines are not legally binding. According to Tarawatch, the Heritage Council recommended in 2002 that a national programme of Landscape Characterisation be undertaken. Draft guidelines prepared by the Department of Environment on landscape characterisation, which would have prevented this entire controversy, have been in circulation since 2000, and are only now being implemented. The essentials of this Tara Management Plan were urged by Mr. Starrett, at the Oireachtas Environment Committee in 2004, long before the public-private partnership contract for the highway was signed, and the decision to build the M3 in the middle of the landscape could have been easily altered. In fact, many of the same protections were already written into the two previous Meath County Development Plans, and have never enforced by Meath County Council. As a result, this announcement is a fine piece of publi relations, without meaning or operative substance.


Meath Post Evidence: Navan to Dublin Railway Project will Not Go Ahead

July 22, 2008

”The Navan to Dublin railway project looks to be dead in the water after it was revealed that one of two key bridges along the M3 protecting the route is not being built.

Site visits by the Meath Post to both locations at Pace (Dunboyne) and Cannistown (Navan) has revealed that whilst the bridge protecting the railway at Dunboyne is being constructed, the bridge south of Navan is not, and the M3 is now being built directly across the railway alignment.

News of this missing bridge and its impact on the Navan Dublin railway project is likely to be met with anger by Meath’s commuters.

However Iarnród Éireann claim that the NRA have factored in the problem and will build embankments to allow the railway to go ahead.

During the planning process for the M3 in 2003, concerns were raised by Iarnród Éireann that reopening of the Navan Dublin railway would be made too costly if M3 planners were allowed cut the former railway line in two by running the M3 through it without first building a bridge.

Local railway campaigners, using information from Iarnród Éireann, succeeded in obtaining the insertion of two railway bridges in the M3 plans to protect efforts to reopen the railway.

Under order of An Bord Pleanála, Meath County Council drew up plans for one bridge at Dunboyne to protect the former railway line, and another at Cannistown just south of Navan.

As recently as 2006, Meath County Council planning office insisted that both bridge plans remained on file and that the Navan Dublin railway line was being protected.

An Bord Pleanála’s ruling stated that a bridge to allow the railway pass beneath the M3 similar to the Dunboyne bridge should be constructed at Cannistown. The instruction was that unless Iarnród Éireann indicated that they intended following a new rail route for at this section then the bridge as designed should be inserted.

To run the line over the motorway would take an enormous effort and massive cost, with a 26 foot embankment required to run for kilometres on either side of the M3 to allow the railway pass above the motorway.

As late as last month, Iarnród Éireann indicated that this section of the former line was being retained, but the evidence in this photograph shows this has not happened.

Despite this, a spokeswoman told the Meath Post that the NRA are aware of their responsibilities.

“The (the NRA) are going to make provision and embankments will be built that will allow the railway to go ahead”. ”


Meath Post, 12th. July 2008 via SaveTara:

Professor George Eogan condemns Rath Lugh Intervention

May 14, 2008

The National Roads Authority has stated work is advancing on the M3 motorway in the area close to the Rath Lugh National Monument. Protesters and conservationists have stated that the esker, a glacial ridge, is an integral part of the 2,000-year-old fortification. Construction work on the Rath Lugh section of the M3 has continued regardless, with the north and southbound sections being excavated to foundation level. Crushed stone has been poured into this foundation to allow haulage trucks past Rath Lugh.

    Rath Lugh was already the scene of clashes in March 2008. Three people were arrested when protesters tried to stop construction workers from erecting a permanent steel fence between the fort and the proposed route that the motorway will follow. A metal palisade fence was erected between the construction site of the M3, close to the Rath Lugh national monument in Co. Meath, and a camp in which protesters and conservationists were based.

    The fence was completed by road-building contractor Eurolink on Saturday, 22nd March.

    The NRA says it is putting in place what is known as a ‘box cut’, which outlines the road’s route. It is also building a quib wall and security fencing. It says the steps are being taken for health and safety reasons, and with the advice and consent of the Gardaí.

On Friday 21 March 2008, the Minister for the Environment, John Gormley, of the Green Party, was reported as stating that he could “give a cast-iron assurance” that the national monument at Rath Lugh would not be damaged by building the motorway along the current alignment.” Professor George Eogan * travelled to Rath Lugh with the TaraWatch group, and witnessed the building works there. Read the rest of this entry »

Rath Lugh Monument under increased threat as protesters moved on

April 17, 2008

The Protest Camp based at Rath Lugh has now been evicted. At one o’ clock, four Protectors who were on site were told by Gardai that they had to gather up their belongings and leave. This was not done in an aggressive manner and was complied with by the protesters.

Once the protesters had left Rath Lugh woods no protester was allowed back in. According to the Direct Action Group, there were 20 Gardai, 3 Garda Cars present, plus 2 Vans as well as a dozen Construction Workers at the entrance to the woods. A steel fence has now been erected separating Rath Lugh National Monument from the public road. A mini digger is busy creating a path and a low loader is in situ. Read the rest of this entry »

Office of Public Works begins move to remove Hill of Tara “squatters”

April 16, 2008

THE Office of Public Works (OPW) has served a formal notice to quit on what it has described as “squatters” on the Hill of Tara.

Minister of State at the OPW, Noel Ahern, has told Meath East TD Thomas Byrne the move is being made in response to concerns of local people that damage was being done to the hill by M3 motorway protestors living in camps there. Read the rest of this entry »

Tunnel Protestor says there is now a month-long reprieve for Rath Lugh National Monument

March 19, 2008

Lisa Feeney ended her protest at the site of the M3 motorway in Co Meath after several days in an underground tunnel.

Anti-M3 protestors claim Lisa Feeney agreed to leave after striking a deal with the National Roads Authority to suspend work for a month at Rath Lugh.

Her protest was aimed at preventing construction work on the M3 motorway, near the Rath Lugh national monument, in the Tara/Skryne valley. Read the rest of this entry »