Monday 16 March 2009

Calls to axe Metro North ‘short-sighted’

Any plans by the government to axe the Metro North would be ‘‘short-sighted’’, according to one of the consortiums bidding to build the 17-kilometre rail system.

In the first official comment from any of the four consortiums competing to build the project, Metro Express technical manager John Duffy criticised some commentators for giving ‘‘monopoly money’’ estimates on the cost of the project. He said that commentators and politicians were ‘‘making up figures about costs, when they actually have no idea about them’’. Estimates of the cost of the rail link between Dublin city centre, Dublin Airport and Swords have ranged between €3 billion and €6 billion.

The Metro Express consortium includes the Sisk construction company, Mercury Engineering, Transdev rail operators, AIB and the Macquarie Group bank.

Duffy said that, as far as the consortiums and the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) were concerned, the rail system is ‘‘definitely proceeding’’, despite pressures on the public finances. ‘‘There has never been a better time to build in recent years,” Duffy said.

‘‘The huge fact that seems to be lost is that, as a PPP (public private partnership) scheme, the consortium will pay for the first five years of construction, which is the general rule with these projects.

‘‘The government can also choose to pay this back over a 25-year period,” said Duffy. He added that Metro North would provide between 5,000 and 7,000 jobs, and the costs of materials and land had gone down, along with interest rates.

‘‘Cost savings on it have been the priority for all the consortiums. We have spent €10million on our bid, and Ireland’s international reputation for PPPs would be seriously affected if Metro North was axed,” Duffy told The Sunday Business Post. RPA spokesman Tom Manning said the agency was working ‘‘flat out’’ reviewing the bids.

‘‘This project will create up to 7,000 jobs, and we have calculated this will save €140 million out of the social welfare budget for unemployed construction workers, without taking into account their spend and income tax return,” he said.

Sunday Business Post

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