Liverpool Landing Stage: Third Cost Blowout of the Year
Liverpool Landing Stage: Third Cost Blowout of the Year

It’s been a few months since the last Liverpool Ferry Terminal Cost Blowout, so here we are with yet another one.

According to the BBC:

The project, which had been set to cost £38m, will now cost more than £70.6m.

Isle of Man’s Liverpool ferry terminal cost rises to £70m

This is the third cost blowout in 2021 alone. In July 2019, the budget was £38.1 million. In April this year, there was an announcement of a further increase to £43 million. In July 2021, there was a request for funding to be increased to £51.8 million. This reported December 2021 request of funding to £70.6 million is thus the third such expected cost blowout in the last seven months.

As we said back in May: “No Government officials appear to have been held accountable for any of these cost increases. Instead, Manx tax payers are likely to be left with the costs again, with little accountability for the decision-makers. Some of the cost increase over time was secretly slipped into other media coverage at the time, not making it clear to taxpayers that costs were repeatedly increasing.”

Because of the many cost blowouts, we’re updating our reporting from July. Isle of Man Newspapers reporting on this issue continues to be excellent, but this article attempts to be a fully-sourced and fully-linked record of every cost increase endured by Manx taxpayers for the Liverpool ferry terminal – so far.

The escalating costs over time

Note: In the chart above, each column is displayed with an equal-width. However, the underlying dates are not spaced equally in real time.

The original DOI report forecast private sector investment of around £18m for the Isle of Man part of the Liverpool Ferry Terminal

Original cost in 2015: £0 of taxpayer money, £18m of private funding

In 2015, the original cost to the taxpayer was projected to be £0, with funding for the project to come from private sources. This was revealed in the Isle of Man Government Department of Infrastructure Report on Liverpool Landing Stage/Strategic Sea Services Agreement in July 2016: “In April 2015, the Peel Group suggested indicative costs of circa £18m (excluding land) for developing and constructing a new facility, consisting of a link span plus terminal and vehicle marshalling facilities, providing a like for like replacement of the existing facilities.”

July 2016: Government gets involved, costs jump to £25m

The first Department of Infrastructure forecast for the development projected a cost of £25 million, with their July 2016 report saying, “If the Department was to design and construct the facility it is estimated that the total development cost would be in the region of £25M; further costs could be incurred at some point in future if the option to extend to 142 [metre] capacity is required.”

March 2018: Cost jumps to £30.5m

IOM, 4 March 2018

Less than two years later, on page 98 of the 2018-19 Isle of Man Government budget, taxpayers discovered that the cost was now up to £30.5 million. This was published by the Isle of Man Government on 20 February 2018, and Isle of Man Newspapers covered this story on 4 March 2018, and the BBC mentioned the new cost in their October 2018 story without any mention of the cost increase.

The 2018-19 Government budget predicted that spending would conclude by March 2021.

April 2019: Another jump to £31.3m

The Isle of Man Government budget for 2019-20 (page 103) continued to forecast approximately £30 million for the Liverpool Ferry Terminal, but just two months later in April, the Government slipped out a new, higher, estimate “the overall cost is forecast to be £31.3m.”

BBC, 9 April 2019

The Government’s media release of 9 April 2019 did not identify that this was a further cost increase. Neither the BBC, nor Isle of Man Newspapers, nor ITV, coverage at the time clearly identified that this was a further cost increase. Meanwhile, ManxRadio initially said on 9 April “£31.3 million is forecast to be the overall cost for the structure“, but published an incorrect report the following day that the facility “is set to cost £30 million.

It seems that the media outlets were duped by the way that the Government hid this news in plain sight.

July 2019: Further increase to £38.1m

IOM Today, 10 July 2019

On 9 July 2019, ManxRadio reported that “Tynwald will be told next week that the capital cost is now just over £38 million.” In the same week, IOM Newspapers reported the “Liverpool dock price continues to spiral“.

8 days later, the BBC reported that it “will cost £6.5m (sic) more than originally (sic) estimated.” According to the BBC, “Member for ports Tim Baker MHK said additional structural and construction works costing £6.5m “were not immediately apparent when the budget numbers were set”.” It is not clear why these costs were unexpected during the previous three years since the Department of Infrastructure’s first report on the issue.

April 2021: Further increase to £43m

On 27 April 2021, Minister Baker revealed yet another cost increase with the Liverpool ferry terminal

Last week, in response to questions in Tynwald, the Isle of Man Government announced yet again that there would be a further blowout to the cost of the Liverpool Landing Stage. The cost to Manx taxpayers has now ballooned out to over £43 million according to Isle of Man Newspapers and Manx Radio.

The BBC mistakenly reported that “the project was originally (sic) expected to cost £38m”, despite their many earlier reports of cost increase. Consequently, the Manx TaxPayers’ Alliance has written to the BBC and asked that this be corrected.

July 2021: Further increase to £51.8m

First reported by, “Infrastructure Minister Tim Baker will this week ask Tynwald to support a bid for £13.8m from the Capital Transactions Account for the new Ferry Terminal in Liverpool.”

The Isle of Man Government admitted on 20 July 2021 that “The funding being sought this week is designed to provide budget capacity past the post-election Tynwald sittings and, once scour procurement and associated negotiations are complete, the Department will return to Tynwald for the balance of funding required to complete the project.”

December 2021: Further increase to £70.6m

On 1 December, the BBC reported, “The project, which had been set to cost £38m, will now cost more than £70.6m….A bid to increase funding for the scheme at the Princes Half Tide Dock by £13.8m was put on hold by the island’s parliament in July.”

The explanatory memorandum to Tynwald members says, “Tynwald approval is sought for the Department of Infrastructure incurring expenditure not exceeding a total of £70,675,921.”

Source Documents

December cost blowout memorandum to Tynwald Members: