Louth County Council Suspend Narrow Water Bridge Project

Looks like the Northern Ireland Finance Minister’s caution was justified.  As the BBC report

Plans to build a cross-border-bridge between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic have been put on hold.

Louth County Council said tenders had been significantly above the figure expected for the Narrow Water bridge project, leading it to halt it.

RTÉ has the figures involved.

The council today said the tenders for the 195m cable-stay bridge across the river Newry at Narrow Water ranged from €26m to €40m, with VAT then to be added on top of that.

A spokesperson for Louth Co Council said having examined the tenders they were clearly well above the budget estimate.

It had been planned the bridge would be built with support from the Government, the Northern Executive and the EU.

However, because of the higher-than-expected tenders, the spokesperson said the project has been put on hold while other possible ways of funding the bridge are examined.

However, given that there is a time limit for use of the EU money, which had been the bulk of the €17.4m, it now appears unlikely the bridge will go ahead.

€17.4million being the original estimate of the cost.  All of which makes some recent party political statements redundant.

Ms. Ruane said [8 July],

 “The Narrow Water Bridge is good to proceed as soon as DRD Minister Danny Kennedy grants a Bridge Order, as every other issue including the funding has been addressed.”

 “It has also been confirmed that Louth County Council has granted their Bridge Order so there is no reason whatsoever for the delay from the North.

Hmm…

Adds  From the Louth County Council press release

A spokesperson for Louth County Council said today: “Having examined all of the tenders received from contractors competing to build the bridge, it is clear that their estimates of the cost of construction are considerably higher than the figures we have been working with to date. This leaves us with a substantial funding shortfall. Our focus now is on seeing if this can be filled through any combination of additional funding and cost reductions.

“While our ambition remains to see this socially and economically desirable project through to completion, the reality is that it is now effectively on hold. At this time, we want to record our appreciation for the support that we have received to date from all of the various stakeholders in both the Republic and Northern Ireland.”

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  • cynic2

    Another Police College. A bridge from nowhere to nowhere driven by hopelessly low cost estimates in the hope that a bubble of optimism will force the Government to shell out.

    You then have to closely ask why are we building this? where is the business case and how realistic is it

    Is this the SDLPs Housing Executive?

    Should Stormont be recalled – the amount underestimated on this is more than red Sky screwed from the system

  • jagmaster

    If only they had called it the Titanic bridge then money would have come from all quarters for it to be built. It seems to work in Belfast anyway.

    Meanwhile Down and Louth residents are shafted yet again with the added caveat of insults and rancour from cynic2 and others no doubt.

  • Dublin

    Why not take the opportunity to build something much simpler and cheaper? The existing proposal seems much more elaborate than is necessary.

    The swing bridge to Achill Island (surely comparable in scale and function?) I think only cost around €5m.

  • JR

    A louth county council employee told me this in the pub nearly two weeks ago, on fri the 28th and I didn’t believe him.

    There is great tourist potential with this bridge with very low cost to the ni tax payer.

  • tacapall

    Why not just make it a toll bridge and seek private investment.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Would an Irish Government VAT waver break anti-competition laws?

  • Red Lion

    So Sammy Wilson finance minister does have a clue after all

  • cynic2

    There is great tourist potential with this bridge

    Or they could just drive 8 miles down the road and cross over there for nothing. Who lobbied for this? Who was the Minister?
    Why were the estimates so far below the true cost?

  • OneNI

    This nonsense encapsulates everything that is wrong with politics and public administration in NI.
    There is no economic case for this bridge.
    If there was a case would have been made via DRD or an application would have been made for EU Structural Funds. (there are relatively strict rules around these funds on economic viability and sustainability)
    It simply didnt stack up so the largely nationalist supporters got Stormont and the Dail to agree to sucker the EU to cough up the money from Interreg funding (much laxer rules)
    The shocking thing is the extent to which Sammy wilson etc went along with this charade

    BBC website 28 May 2013:
    “The majority of the funding for the project is coming from Europe, with the Department of Finance contributing £2,691,880 and the Republic of Ireland providing £781,962.

    “Funding of £14m for the Narrow Water bridge has now been given approval subject to clarification on technical conditions applicable to the Letter of Offer,” Mr Wilson said.

    “As with any project offer, the Letter of Offer for the Narrow Water bridge Project will include a number of important conditions.

    “One such condition is a commitment by Louth County Council that they will have sole responsibility for any cost overruns associated within the eligible spend timeframe and in the event that the project would extend outside this period.

    So it is clear that wilson and his Dept had stronger suspicions that the whole ‘assumed’ cost figure was a nonsense. It is now clear that this ‘cost’ is FORTY PER CENT below the lowest tender -and yet he wont stand up and say ‘this is nonsense’

    Now we will all be subjected to another charade while nationalist attempt to browbeat DUP, etc into shelling out the mere 7.7m euro difference.

    Will unionist politicians have the courage to stand up to this nonsense? Not on the evidence of Danny Kennedy’s bungling performance on radio yesterday.

    If a Minister at Westminster was seen to be even a party to this charade the media would be hounding him to resign – but here in NI no one blinks.

    I suspect most slugger readers Expect the project still to happen! and the nationalist ones might even convince themselves that it makes economic sense – which it plainly doesnt!

    Mind you SF Ministers dont believe NI is really subsidised by GB!

  • Kensei

    Bad news.I really, really like that area and this bridge would make it much easier to get from Omeath / Carlingford to Rostrevor and vice versa.

    Everything else is seocndly to the inconvenience.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Kensei, it is a beautiful area, and setting aside politics and money, I think it would be an ugly blot on the landscape, destroying the whole reason for its existance.

  • Kensei

    A bridge over a river? It’d take a hell of a lot more than that to “ruin” that spectacular piece of the country. You might as well argue having roads ruined it.

    I think you need to remove the orange tinted specs there.

  • boondock

    Is there not a huge amount of money from the EU for this project. So would it not be wise to plan a more simple bridge that will come in on budget. Doesnt make any sense to kick the project n to touch when money has been set aside for it from the EU

  • ayeYerMa

    Where is the wailing and screaming of “discrimination” and “oppression” from the usual suspects when the economic reality of this “nationalist” vanity project is spelt out? Interesting that media headlines have been rather hush hush when it comes to pointing out that Louth County Council is the economic messenger.

    Given there is no unionist to throw mud at, no doubt this story will quietly fade away…

  • thethoughtfulone

    “The shocking thing is the extent to which Sammy wilson etc went along with this charade”

    Maybe, just maybe……………..Sammy and/or someone in his staff knew that the figures wouldn’t stack up and in this case he simply called their bluff.

  • Morpheus

    “Sammy and/or someone in his staff knew that the figures wouldn’t stack up and in this case he simply called their bluff.”

    So Sammy knew before the tenders were even received? I wonder if he could give me the lottery numbers this week…

  • Reader

    Morpheus: So Sammy knew before the tenders were even received? I wonder if he could give me the lottery numbers this week…
    Isn’t it usual that a company will offer an attractive price when it is interested in drumming up a bit of business, but the terms will be much less tempting when they have to put in a bid that they will stand over?
    Likewise, Sammy can’t tell you what the lotto numbers are going to be, but he could probably give you a very good estimate of what your ticket will be worth after Saturday night.
    However, SoS is probably just guessing. It’s just possible that Sammy never had any objection to spending a few million pounds on a cross border white elephant most likely to be used to dodge fuel duty.

  • thethoughtfulone

    “So Sammy knew before the tenders were even received?”

    Well given the amount that the initial estimates were out by, any civil engineer, quantity surveyor, or even contractor with a bit of experience could look at the plan, look at the estimate and know in 5 minutes that there wouldn’t be a cat in hells chance of it coming in at that price.

    Whether Sammy or anyone in his department would actually go to the trouble of finding out would be the bigger issue.

  • thethoughtfulone

    “It’s just possible that Sammy never had any objection to spending a few million pounds on a cross border white elephant most likely to be used to dodge fuel duty.”

    Sadly, that’s probably more likely!

  • Delphin

    The bridge structure is complicated by being openable to allow tall ships into Newry. This has possibly made the pre-tender price difficult to estimate accurately. The consulting engineers employed by Louth Council have an excellent web site and worth looking at.
    http://www.rod.ie/narrow-water-bridge-republic-of-ireland-to-northern-ireland/

    I think the bridge is an excellent idea. It makes the charming little town of Carlingford easily accessible from the Mournes without having to traipse through Newry.

    Sammy may have happy to spend a few million in South Down, but he is even happier to spend £120 million on the Belfast – Larne road. Speeds freight from Larne port to Belfast, what’s wrong with taking it straight to Belfast port?

  • JR

    To not build this bridge would be very short sighted. The mourne, coolie area has had very little tourism investment until recently. This bridge would link the scenic areas of the coolies and mournes which are both in the same tourism niche. That is walking, cycling, outdoor pursuits, sea fishing, weekend breaks etc. To drive arround is about 40 min through newry traffic by car but much longer when you are on a bike or walking. The bridge would be ideal for the development of long distance walking and cycling routes.

  • Reader

    JR: The bridge would be ideal for the development of long distance walking and cycling routes.
    Excellent point. How much would a footbridge cost?

  • Son of Strongbow

    Looking for a bridge shortcut for “long distance walking and cycling routes” seems somewhat oxymoronic.

    Isn’t the clue in ‘long distance’?

  • JR

    Just in case you are genuinely ignorant on the pursuit. The point of a long distance cycle or walking route is to walk a long distance through mountains and scenic countryside for pleasure, not through a city and along a dual carriageway.