Sunday 9 August 2009

Construction of Metro North set to be delayed

It may be early 2011 before heavy construction work begins on the proposed Metro North rail line because of delays caused by requests for further information by An Bord Pleanála.

An oral hearing into the proposed multi-billion euro light rail line between St Stephen’s Green and Swords in Dublin began in April, but was suspended after An Bord Pleanála requested a significant amount of extra information from the Railway Procurement Agency (RPA).

An RPA spokesman said the agency was working ‘‘flat out’’ to submit this information by October.

Two consortiums have gone through to the ‘best and final offer’ stage for the contract to build the Metro. The Metro Express consortium includes AIB, Transdev and Sisk; while the Celtic Metro Group is composed of foreign operators and headed by Japanese investment group Mitsui.

One well-placed source said there was ‘‘a degree of frustration’’ at the suspension of the oral hearing, which would delay the planning process by at least six months. ‘‘It is hard to see why this information could not have been requested much earlier in the process, or why the planning inspector wasn’t supplied with this information in the first place by the RPA. This adds additional costs to our bid, and also delays the granting of the Railway Order.

‘‘We can only put in our best and final offer when this is signed off,” the source said. ‘‘Realistically speaking, it will be autumn next year before the winner’s blueprint will be fine-tuned, so it could be 2011 before heavy construction actually starts.”

However, RPA spokesman Tom Manning disputed this claim and said they would be ‘‘ready to go on enabling works’’ if and when the Railway Order was granted for the project. ‘‘We are working flat out to assist the board and we expect the oral hearing will be re-convened after they have received the extra information.

The Railway Order application is part of this process, and we have had meetings with the two consortiums to outline our position,” he said.

Separately, The Sunday Business Post understands that the two consortiums will not request any capital from the government at the initial stage of the project and will instead offer a 100 per cent ‘mortgage’ on the project - to be paid back over a period such as 25 years.

Sunday Business Post

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