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State didn't price €600m M50 bridge

THE Government spent €600m on the M50 toll bridge without knowing how much it cost to build, an official source has revealed.

Department of Transport secretary general Tom O'Mahony disclosed that the Government did not know how much had been invested in the project when it agreed to take it over from National Toll Roads (NTR) in 2008.

The deal the Government made at the time ensures that NTR will receive a €1.15bn return on its investment in 10 years' time.

The compensation package, as well as 18 years of toll revenues, guarantees the international company earns €1,155,786,122 by 2020.

Mr O'Mahony explains in a letter to the Public Accounts Committee that Government agencies failed to find out how much the operation cost after six months of research.

In his letter, Mr O'Mahony writes: "In response to our requests, the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government provided the relevant files and documentation held by them relating to the original West-Link bridge.

"We also obtained copies of relevant papers held by the National Roads Authority. However, in our search of those files, no data was found relating to the final construction costs of the West-Link bridge."

Further research was carried out by the department in recent times to confirm that the toll bridge did indeed cost €35m as private consultants had previously advised.

It has emerged that there are no records of the 1987 construction budget that led to the controversial creation of the toll bridge over the River Liffey.

It has also been revealed that the public official who signed the original contract with NTR received a £10,000 donation from the former head of the private company.

Tom Roche Snr gave the amount to the then assistant city manager of Dublin, George Redmond, in return for the official's help in obtaining the land.

Dublin City Council has been split in three local authorities since the contract was first signed but none of these public bodies had any record of the M50 bridge's original costs.

hnews@herald.ie