Irish roadbuilding agency’s warning opens door for British and international contractors.
The Irish government has been warned that Irish contractors lack the capacity to deliver its £3.7bn roadbuilding programme, and that it will have to give the work to contractors from abroad.

In a submission to a select committee, the chief executive of the National Roads Authority, the government agency responsible for road construction, said the programme outlined at the end of last year could not be achieved with Irish contractors.

Speaking to Building this week, NRA chief executive Michael Tobin said: “Our roadbuilding programme opens the door to British and other international contractors. At the moment, we do not have the capacity or resources to carry out the work. “Our total spend on road infrastructure projects was IR£1.3bn (£1bn) over the past six years. Between now and 2006, we intend to spend IR£4.7bn (£3.7bn) and we appreciate that we will need help to achieve that.”

However, Tobin warned prospective British bidders that labour shortages will mean that UK contractors have to import their own labour.

“It won’t help if UK contractors just send in their management teams and expect to resource projects with staff here. There is a shortage of labour here at the moment, and we need British contractors to bring in the complete team,” he said. Tobin added that most of the roadbuilding projects would be financed through public-private partnerships, and said that UK contractors’ experience of putting together private finance initiative deals could give them an advantage when bidding for work.

There is a shortage of labour here, and we need British contractors

Michael Tobin, National Roads Agency

A spokesperson for Mowlem, which is active in Ireland through Irishenco, the civils contractor that it acquired two years ago, said: “We’re mindful of the programme they want to complete and it’s a potential area where we could ply more than one of our skills. PPP is very attractive to us. We think it’s a good way of doing business.”

Another industry source added: “PPP will attract all the major UK players to Ireland. If they get the schemes up and running quickly, it could prove a better deal than road PFI in the UK.”

Work is scheduled to start on a number of projects this year, including the £160m Dublin Port Tunnel and a £240m scheme to construct a South-eastern motorway starting in Dublin.

The shortlist of five teams for the Dublin Port Tunnel, which will be let on a design-and-build contract, includes one consortium involving Amec Spie and another that includes Irishenco and Mowlem. The winning bidder will be announced in April.