Published Tuesday, 03 December 2013
Archaeological finds added millions to the cost of constructing the roads. (© Pacemaker)
In 2007, the Roads Service, which is part of the Department for Regional Development, and a contractor entered into a £224.9m contract for 78 miles of motorway and trunk road.
This included the upgrade of a stretch of the A1 near Newry to dual carriageway, junction improvements at Hillsborough and Banbridge and the rebuilding of the road between Dungannon and Ballygawley to dual carriageway standard.
Under the contract with Amey Lagan Roads, the Roads Service carried the risk that additional costs could be incurred for 'unforeseeable archaeology'.
Following the discovery of extensive archaeological features in Co Down and Tyrone, the contractor argued that all of these were unforeseeable and submitted a claim to the Roads Service for £33.7m, which was contested.
The finds included Bronze Age cooking sites dating back thousands of years as well as the contents of pits and ditches.
After mediation, a settlement of £17.22m was agreed at an extra cost to the taxpayer.
The Northern Ireland Audit Office, which has published a report on the Department for Regional Development's settling of claims, found that £2.6m was spent on work to minimise the risk of discovering historic items during construction.
The report found that the Roads Service acted reasonably in managing the risk.
"Under the contract used, it is not possible to assess how much additional expenditure would have been required on advanced archaeological works to eliminate all archaeological risks and whether this would have been value for money," a statement said.
"Given the inherent 'unforeseeable' nature of the risk, it is unlikely that risk could ever be easily or adequately evaluated and priced.
"As a result, our general conclusion is that the Roads Service acted reasonable in retaining the risk of 'unforeseeable archaeology'."
It also said that lessons from the project have been incorporated by the Roads Service and Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) in more recent road schemes.
© UTV News