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Cost blunder of rail link upgrade between Derry and Coleraine to be subject of probe

By Noel McAdam

The blunder over the cost of upgrading the rail link between Londonderry and Coleraine is to be probed by a scrutiny committee

Transport Minister Danny Kennedy and Translink chiefs have been summoned by an Assembly committee after cost estimates for the project doubled.

MLAs on the Regional Development Committee urged Minister Danny Kennedy and senior officials to explain the multi-million pound underestimate of £20m-£22m which has now risen to £40m.

The committee will also undertake an inquiry into Translink procurement procedures and the department's "seeming inability" to budget for capital projects.

Committee chairman Trevor Clarke said it was a "shambles" which should "never have been allowed to happen".

He said: "It is evident that both the minister and senior officials from Translink have either failed to recognise or ignored the lessons to be learned from earlier botched procurement exercises.

"They also seem to have ignored the recommendations of the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee report on the upgrade of the Belfast to Bangor railway line."

The DUP MLA said the scrutiny committee has already cautioned the minister and Translink about the weaknesses of the procurement exercise.

He added: "But we appear to have been ignored.

"We are unanimous that this will not happen again and that the minister and Translink must be challenged on their inadequacies - and the damage this bungled process may bring about."

His comments came after the Assembly was told Translink's costing for the project was "frankly little more than a guesstimate".

The initiative, now in its second phase, involves the installation of new signalling and a passing loop.

Mr Kennedy told MLAs on Monday that Translink had used figures that were "not based on fact".

He said: "Translink has had custodianship of a key Programme for Government commitment and has singularly failed to discharge it effectively."

The SDLP's John Dallat said it was "another slap in the face for the north-west".

The Into the West rail lobby group has called for a "no holds barred" public inquiry.

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