Belfast Telegraph

Delayed Ulster University site builder Somague wins major roads deal


By Margaret Canning

Portugese construction firm Somague - at the centre of the delayed new Ulster University campus in Belfast - has won a deal to build part of the A6, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.

Somague will be announced tomorrow as a successful bidder for part of the dualling of the A6, a flagship project for the public purse in Northern Ireland.

It’s expected to be a party to a joint venture to carry out dualling between Dungiven and Drumahoe. The announcement is due from the Department for Infrastructure.

And winning another contract in Northern Ireland will make it more likely for Somague to resume work on phase two of the Ulster University site as it now has added reason to stay.

The UU site has been mothballed after Somague’s joint venture partner Lagan Construction Group put four of its companies into administration.

A Department for Infrastructure spokeswoman would not comment on the identity of the winning firm in the latest stage of the A6 dualling, but added: “The tender process for the A6 upgrade between Dungiven and Drumahoe is in the final stages, with formal award due very soon.”

When complete, the A6 project will link Belfast and Londonderry with a dual carriageway. Part of the latest stage will involve a bypass around Dungiven.

A joint venture of Northern Ireland construction firms Graham and Farrans is carrying out the dualling of the Randalstown to Castledawson section.

The Department for Infrastructure’s scheme is expected to be substantially complete in early 2021. It’s understood a civil engineering firm which is now in administration within Lagan Construction Group had bid for the latest A6 deal in a joint venture with Irish company Sisk.

Lagan Construction Group said it had no comment to make.

And Ulster University yesterday said it had no comment on the prospect of additional work for Somague in Northern Ireland.

But a spokeswoman said talks on the future of its site with Somague were continuing.

“The university continues to consult with Somague to ensure delivery of this landmark development,” she said.

“Lagan’s decision to call in administrators is likely to lead to unfortunate but unavoidable delays in the delivery of the project.

“However, we are actively discussing all available options to recommence works as soon as possible.”

Gordon Best, the chief executive of trade body the Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland (QPANI), said: “Hopefully we will see work on the ground in the not-too-distant future. This is a key project which will improve safety and improve journey times between our two main cities in Northern Ireland.”

Richard Kirk, regional director of the Institution of Civil Engineering (ICE) in Northern Ireland, said: “It’s great that an announcement is soon to come out. We are delighted about that.

“It’s a massive project and the public procurement authorities will have made their decisions based on the best value for money for the public purse.”

Somague had been working on the second phase of the new Ulster University campus in Belfast city centre with Lagan Construction Group, after their joint venture Lagan Somague won the tender in 2014.

The firms were to build phase two of the £250m project, a £150m development of two new blocks on York Street, with the site to be ready in 2018.

However, workers from all the firms involved, including subcontractors, downed tools three weeks ago.

Lagan had said factors including “delays in the commencement of new projects, protracted contractual disputes on some existing major projects” had led to its decision to put some of the companies into administration.

Belfast Telegraph

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