THE first of the Government's Transport 21 projects was completed yesterday when new, longer trams for the Luas red line service were unveiled.
The 40-metre trams will allow 2,000 extra passengers an hour to be carried between Connolly Station and Tallaght, and the trams can be extended even further to cope with additional demand.
Chief executive of the Railway Procurement Agency, Frank Allen, said the agency expected to apply for a railway order seeking permission to build Metro North within the next month.
He said it wanted to ensure it got value for money on the project -- reported to cost between €3bn and €4.5bn -- adding it was the "biggest infrastructure project" ever undertaken in the State.
"The timing of Metro North depends on the planning process and we would hope by this time next year we'll have a railway order," he said. The 2013 deadline for completion was "likely" to be met, assuming there were delays, but it was "essential we get value for money".
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said the longer trams were "good news" for commuters as capacity would be raised by 40pc.