Polish roads operator sued for $385mln by Irish builder

* SRB seeks PLN 190 mln in penalties, 1 bln in damages

* Says walked out on deals on Polish key highway

* Blames state road operator GDDKiA

* GDDKiA blames SRB for overdue contractor payments

WARSAW, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Poland's state road operator hasbeen hit with a 1.2 billion zloty ($385 million) compensationclaim by Irish builder SRB Civil Engineering, the latest falloutfrom a troubled construction spree ahead of the Euro 2012 soccertournament.

SRB said it was forced to walk away from a contract to buildstretches of a key Polish highway because of failures by roadsoperator GDDKiA and wants to be compensated for losses it saidit incurred.

But GDDKiA said it was the contractor who was at fault andthat it had to withdraw from the contract, not the other wayround.

Poland's 94-billion zloty infrastructure programme wasdesigned to showcase the country's emergence as a modern,dynamic country in time for the Euro 2012 tournament, which itco-hosted with Ukraine.

But the projects have left behind a trail of contractualdisputes and construction firms saying they had lost money.

SRB was responsible for building 94 kilometres of a 5.8billion zloty A1 highway from the northern city of Torun toStrykow in central Poland. It won the contract as part of aconsortium with Poland's PBG , which since June hasbeen in bankruptcy protection.

The Irish builder said it finished a 30-km stretch of roadahead of schedule but had walked out on the rest, blamingGDDKiA's administration problems and lack of knowhow. It said itwas seeking 190 million zlotys in penalties and 1 billion indamages.

SRB also said it had requested the European Commission toreview of the roads programme, arguing its problems mirroredthose of a number of construction groups and putting the blameon GDDKiA.

"The GDDKiA had neither the experience to manage such alarge roads programme nor a suitably resourced supply chain todeliver it," the Irish company said.

In response, GDDKiA said SRB owed 51 million zlotys inoverdue payments to sub-contractors and spokeswoman UrszulaNelken said: "We withdrew from the contract due to thecontractor's fault.

"The consortium was not managing the A1 stretches, as it wassimply unable to even though we gave them time to deal withbanks and sort things out inside the consortium."

In another sign of the mess left behind by the road-buildingprogramme, a second big Polish builder, Polimex , isfighting for survival having like other firms agreed torazor-thin margins on its contracts and then found costsshooting up.($1 = 3.1179 Polish zlotys)($1 = 0.7657 euros)

(Reporting by Grzegorz Szymanowski and Adrian Krajewski;Editing by David Holmes)

((adrian.krajewski@thomsonreuters.com)(+48 22 653 9709)(Reuters Messaging:adrian.krajewski.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))