Back to the market: Sisk, client part ways on major Irish interchange

A project to reconfigure a congested highway interchange near the city of Cork in Ireland will be re-tendered and delayed for a year after contractor Sisk and the government client agency could not agree on extra costs necessitated by the discovery of bad ground conditions.

The decision, revealed by Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) last week, sparked an angry response from the Cork Chamber of Commerce, which said Cork is "losing faith in the ability of Government to deliver" strategic infrastructure projects.

The Dunkettle Interchange connects a number of heavily used national routes, but a signalised roundabout causes tailbacks. The plan is to reshape it so traffic can be freeflowing.

Sisk won the contract in June 2018, reports The Irish Times, adding the project’s budget was €100m. 

The project has been delayed, and last week TII said "worse than anticipated ground conditions" had led to an increase in the scope of work.

The contract with Sisk stipulated that the forecast of costs of the main works had to be agreed prior to proceeding, but the parties have not been able to agree a figure.

Tailbacks are common as drivers negotiate traffic signals (Dunkettle Interchange)

TII said that meant it was necessary to return to the market for the tendering of main works contract.

"It is anticipated that the construction contract will be awarded in 2020 with sectional openings taking place during 2022, and full completion in 2023. Overall, this pushes the completion date back by 12 months," TII said on 15 August. 

TII will prepare a new business case to bring to the government for approval ahead of awarding a new main works contract.

In the meantime, TII and Sisk will start advance works in October to divert utilities and build a new link road.

Cork Chamber of Commerce reacted immediately, saying that "serious questions need to be asked around the estimating process for the National Development Plan".

"The decision by Government to retender the Dunkettle Interchange will result in significant delays to the project, which is completely unacceptable," said Cork Chamber chief executive Conor Healy.

"In the former capital plan, Government had promised that Dunkettle would be completed by 2021. This was subsequently extended to 2022 in the current capital plan, and today’s decision to retender the project extends the completion time to 2023. How can we now have confidence in this date?"

He added that the delay will set back other strategic infrastructure projects, including roads and housing.

Top image: Schematic plan of Dunkettle Interchange Upgrade (Dunkettle Interchange)

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