Work on the Metro from Dublin city centre to the airport is to start, even though a builder has not been picked.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey has received Cabinet approval for the necessary Exchequer funding to be used to fast-track construction of stations at the new Mater Hospital and at Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport.
The RPA will now go ahead and build the station boxes at the Mater and Dublin Airport.
If they waited for the successful bidder to build these stations, it would cause significant disruption at both the Mater and the airport, as construction on the new hospital and new terminal would be already underway. By giving the green light to the RPA now to get construction underway, disruption will be minimised at both locations.
The Irish Independent has learned that the RPA is to invite the four international consortia that have pre-qualified to tender for the Metro North project to engage in a technical workshop in advance of inviting them to formally bid for the project.
It is understood that the Rail Procurement Agency (RPA) will have to delay lodging its Railway Order Application to An Bord Pleanála by up to three months, because the design for Metro North is not sufficiently detailed for the purposes of a planning application.
The RPA had planned to lodge the application to the Board early this year under new legislation which allows for the 'fast-tracking of strategic infrastructure projects, but it could be the summer before the design is complete. This could result in a delay in Metro coming on-stream. Construction work was due to be completed by 2012, but the newapaper has learned from informed sources that it is likely to be 2013 before work is finished.
However, Minister Dempsey secured Government approval for the RPA to begin enabling works on the construction of the station sites at the new Mater Hospital and Terminal 2 in Dublin Airport. The Government has now agreed the financing structure of the project, so that the RPA can proceed with the bidding process.
The Metro will be the largest infrastructure project currently under way in Europe and the Minister said he was pushing to get it delivered as quickly as possible - adding that the Metro was vital as a cost-effective public transport alternative to get people out of their cars. "We can't let cars continue to pour onto our streets. It's unsustainable, it's causing traffic gridlock - costing the economy millions and people precious time" - he added.
The proposed route for Metro North would serve areas where the population is expected to double in the next 20 years.