THE Department of Transport and the Railway Procurement Agency have rubbished claims that Dublin's Metro North rail system will cost over €5bn.
However, neither agency would say how much the project was likely to cost, citing "commercial sensitivity" and saying it would give companies an unfair advantage when bidding to build the 17km light-rail line.
Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act to a newspaper suggest that officials put the cost of completing the line from the city centre to Lissenhall at over €4.5bn at 2004 prices.
Although all figures in the documents were blanked out, the Irish Times said it could "discern" that the projected cost was €4.58bn - which would probably rise to over €5bn.
But the Department of Transport refused to comment on the claims, saying that not until a bidder was chosen to build the line would the price be revealed.
The project would be built under a public private partnership (PPP), where the private sector would meet some of the cost and the State the rest of it.
"The Department of Transport has noted media speculation today on the potential cost of the Dublin North metro," a statement said. "In line with international best practice in the area of PPP projects, no estimates on the potential cost of this project have been made available by the department pending completion of the procurement process in the interests of extracting the best deal possible for the exchequer."
The RPA, which is tasked with delivering Metro North, said the figures were not in line with its cost projections. Metro North is designed to carry 34 million passengers a year.
"Way back in time, when we submitted the outline business case for cabinet approval, we didn't release the figures on the basis of cabinet confidentiality," a spokesman said. "The number I've seen (in the newspaper) doesn't ring any bells. The figure will not be released to avoid giving bidders a clear indication of what's expected."
If correct, the €5bn price tag will make Metro North - due for completion in 2013 - the most expensive infrastructure project in the history of the State.