Belfast Telegraph

Legal threat to minister Kennedy over secret report into rail line cost

By Donna Deeney

The Government committee set up to scrutinise the Department for Regional Development is considering legal action against minister Danny Kennedy.

Committee chairman Trevor Clarke wants to force the minister to disclose the content of a report commissioned to find out why the cost of a railway project was underestimated by £20 million.

The regional development committee was in Londonderry yesterday to take evidence from Translink and DRD officials.

Members were increasingly frustrated by the lack of clarity being provided.

This reached boiling point when Mr Clarke asked what the 12 recommendations contained in a report - known as the Power Report - commissioned by the DRD into how the estimated costs of upgrading the railway line between Derry and Coleraine rose from £20m to £40m. Mr Clarke was told by Translink chief executive David Strahan that the company was implementing the findings of the Power Report so that the mistakes made in working out the estimated costs would not be repeated.

Mr Clarke pointed out the remit of the inquiry, saying: "This inquiry is looking at how this went so horribly wrong and to seek assurances that what happened will not happen again in 12 months' time. You are talking about the Power Report but the minister has refused to make that available to us so we do not know what is in it."

Mr Clarke accused Mr Kennedy of treating the committee with "utter disrespect", which had led him to not "trust the minister or the department on anything" and criticised the "obstructive nature of the DRD officials", which made the role of the committee "very difficult".

The 12 recommendations that came out of the Power Report were also referred to by DRD deputy secretary John McGrath.

He told the committee he was unable to provide any details because the minister felt it was not appropriate for the content of the report to be put in the public domain.

When contacted by the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Kennedy said: "I have previously advised the Assembly and the regional development committee that commercial confidentiality prevents the department from disclosing the project assessment review at this time.

However, it will be released in full at the appropriate time, after the conclusion of the procurement process." He added: "The scope of the review has been released to the committee.

"It was also confirmed this morning at the committee for regional development meeting that the tendering process for phase 2 has started and if that is successful, construction on the project could be under way before the summer."

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