More than €38m has been spent on outside consultants to advise on Dublin's Metro project, which could now fall victim to government cutbacks in the worsening economic conditions.
The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) spent almost €20m on Metro-related consultancy services in 2007 and a further €9m was spent between January and the end of September 2008 at a time when the government has been seeking to reduce spending across all state agencies.
Now the opposition has expressed fresh concerns that the government may be planning to "mothball" the project, which has not yet been finalised.
Labour party deputy leader and spokeswoman on finance, Joan Burton TD, said she could "not find a word" about the proposed Metro project in the Government's recently launched framework for "sustainable economic renewal", which outlines a range of investment priorities for transport.
"I think it is a disaster for the Greater Dublin region if the project does not go ahead," she told the Sunday Tribune. "I think it means that they may be mothballing it... or changing the format of the plans."
Tom Coffey of the Dublin City Business Association said he believed the State sector has "squandered money on consultants and produced very little for it.
"You couldn't actually build the Metro with the plans based on the €38m spent on consultants," he said. "The issue confronting this country is that the state sector is hiding behind more ministers, more meetings, and more consultants. And there are not enough results for the citizens out on the street."
However, a spokesman for the RPA said it "is satisfied it has achieved value for money in the spend to date" on both the Metro North and the Metro West projects.
For example, he said the Metro North spend included for the production "of a considerable body of work" such as a "detailed feasibility study", an outline business case for the project and 250 railway order plans.
"All expenditure is competitively tendered and contracts awarded on a most economically advantageous basis," he said. "The Metro North project is at an advanced stage in terms of both planning and procurement," he said. "Metro West is also proceeding very well but is at an earlier stage of development."
Asked how much the Metro was expected to cost, the spokesman said the agency is precluded from disclosing overall costs of projects "still in procurement".
"While Metro North is being delivered as a public-private partnership, certain advance works will be funded by the exchequer, including some service diversion works and property acquisition," he said.
"In addition to the spend on consultants, RPA has spent approximately €3.5m on Metro North on comprehensive geotechnical investigations, building condition surveys, utility mapping surveys and other surveys to support the reference design and EIS."
"Having selected an emerging preferred route and submitted an Outline Business Case, Metro West is now preparing for the submission of an application for a Railway Order. It is expected that this application will be made in late 2009," the spokesman said.
According to internal RPA figures obtained by the Sunday Tribune, the €38m spend on consultancy for the Metro forms part of a total of €74m worth of 'professional fees' paid out to external consultants by the RPA since 2002 for projects ranging from the Metro and the Luas to the introduction of integrated ticketing.
Some €19m in 2007 and €8.7m in 2008 was spent on the Metro North project, which is at a more advanced stage than the proposed Metro West rail link. The figure for 2008 also includes around €1m spent on advance works for the proposed Metro North line.
The RPA confirmed that it has also spent more than €17m to date on the long-awaited introduction of integrated ticketing, initially in the Dublin area – and that €4.5m of that total has been paid to consultants since 2002.
IBM has been contracted to oversee this project and the plan is for a 'soft launch' towards the end of the year, according to the agency.
Separately, the RPA has spent €3.4m on legal fees since 2002, the figures also reveal.