Posted by Declan Tierney, Connacht Tribune in News.

The prospects of the Gort–Tuam Motorway starting early in the New Year have been dealt a huge blow with the National Roads Authority confirming that no contracts have been signed for the project.

More than three months ago the Government announced the commencement of the 57 kilometre motorway as part of its stimulus package but since then no funding has been put in place to start the €530 million project.

At the time, the Government announced that the Direct Route consortium was awarded the contract but so far nothing has been signed because of an absence of funding.

It was understood that the Government would source funding from the European Investment Bank for the public private partnership scheme but this has not happened so far.

A source close to the National Road Authority said that they could not sign any contract with the consortium because the Government had not come up with the funding to progress the motorway.

It is understood that €150 million has now been spent n the project so far—the vast majority of this was in the acquisition of lands through compulsory purchase order. In fact the lands were acquired at a time when property prices were at their peak.

The much delayed project was put out to tender around three years ago and after an arduous process, the successful consortium was BAM Balfour Beatty. However, contracts were not signed up because the consortium could not source the necessary finance to commence work on the motorway.

Then in July it was announced that the motorway would be proceeding early in the New Year as part of the Government’s stimulus package but no funding has been made available to the NRA to proceed with the signing of contracts.

Even now that matter might be revisited by the original consortium has refused to rule out legal action over the project being given to another company.

There has been speculation that legal proceedings will be issued against the National Roads Authority which could also delay the construction of the M17/18 motorway for several years.

BAM Construction, who were part of the consortium which were awarded the contract two years ago, refused to make any comment.

Galway West TD Noel Grealish has described the M17/M18 motorway as “nothing but a white elephant” and is now raising the matter in the Dáil with the Minister for Transport.

“When it was announced that it would be proceeding in early 2013, all of the Government TDs in Galway jumped on the bandwagon and one even had the audacity to claim that it wold create 3,000 jobs.

“If it went ahead, it would generate several hundred jobs and they would be very welcome in the current climate. It is now high time for the Government to come clean and explain what is happening with this motorway project.” Deputy Grealish added.

The NRA source told the Connacht Tribune that Direct Route, which is made up of well known Irish building contractors including Lagan, Roadbridge and Sisk, were ready to proceed but the Government had not committed to providing funding and therefore no contracts can be signed.