Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Major Northern Ireland infrastructure projects now billions over estimate

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The Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO) released a report titled Major Capital Projects – Follow-up Report that found a selection of 77 of the country’s capital infrastructure projects would cost roughly £2.5 billion (US$3.1 billion) more than expected

Green space near a marina in Belfast, Northern Ireland. According to the general auditor, the country’s major infrastructure projects are behind schedule and over budget. (Image: Adobe Stock)

For the period of April 2019 to August 2023, projects in that timeframe were originally marked to cost $7.1 billion to complete. The estimate is now $10.2 billion.

Of the 77 schemes analysed, only nine are currently expected to finish on time and on budget. Of seven major projects (first identified in 2015), just one has been completed: The Belfast Rapid Transit line, which opened in 2018.

The largescale projects – which include roads, public transit, hospitals, and parks builds – were hampered by inflation, geopolitical influences, and the Covid pandemic, but the report suggested inaction by government executives and poor oversight may have played a part.

NIAO Comptroller and Auditor General Dorinnia Carville said a failure to rectify delays and mitigate rising costs lead to the price bloating.

“It remains extremely concerning that, more than four years after my office’s last report on this issue, there is little evidence of improvement or past lessons learned being applied to new projects,” said Carville.

The NIAO explained, “Inefficient governance and delivery structures remain in place.”

Carville called for a “comprehensive transformation project” to “overhaul the system for commissioning major capital projects.” She said the government needed stronger accountability of project delivery.

While it might be too late to secure the original estimates, the NIAO report also suggested project planners work closer with the Northern Ireland Strategic Investment Board and adapt collaborative digital tools.

As for the remaining projects, some are being pushed back more than a decade. According to the NIAO report and local media, Casement Park in Belfast – which is to feature a 34,000 capacity stadium for the 2028 UEFA European Football Championship – will be finished in 2027, “more than 10 years later than originally planned.”

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