Belfast Telegraph

Doubling of Derry to Coleraine rail line costs 'a calamity'

By Donna Deeney

The railway upgrade between Belfast and Londonderry faces indefinite delays after Translink underestimated the cost of the second phase of the project by 100%.

The revelation that it will cost £40m rather than £20m to upgrade the section between Derry and Coleraine has been met with fury and accusations that the minister responsible and his department had mishandled the entire project. Railway lobby group Into The West has demanded a "no-holds-barred" inquiry and branded the gaff as a "calamity".

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy was made aware of the huge gap between the estimated and likely cost of the project at the start of the summer.

However, it was only on Monday that he brought it into the public domain. Laying the blame totally at the foot of Translink, the minister said the initial estimate for phase two of the project has been a "gross underestimate".

This will now push phase two, which has already been delayed until 2016 because of "procurement difficulties", back even further to a date as yet unknown.

There has been no explanation of how Translink got the numbers so wrong.

Eamonn McCann from Into The West said: "This project has been promised for around four years now, so how on Earth can it be that we arrive at the tail end of 2014 and no one apparently has sat down and done the sums.

"This is intolerable. We need a no-holds-barred investigation into how this came about, with the findings published in full.

"Our anger is shared by the general population of the north west and particularly by railway workers.

"What's happened is just not good enough. There is no reason we should stand for this sort of treatment any more."

Into The West has already asked to meet Mr Kennedy, who has insisted he remains fully committed to the upgrade of the line linking Northern Ireland's two main cities.

The minister said: "One of the key review recommendations is a lessons learned plan.

"I attach particular importance to that.

"I expect the Translink board to address this urgently and for the new group chief executive to grasp this issue. I will not tolerate anything like this happening again.

"I will also commission a review of how my department assesses and reviews all major capital projects.

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