Ireland drops €5.6 billion metro projects Dec 2011
Peter Kenyon, TunnelTalk
Confirmation of two Dublin metro projects, dropped as part of an Irish Government's review of public spending, comes as a major blow to those who have worked on their advanced planning phases and those anticipating the construction phases.
The 8.6km Dart Interconnector, which comprises 7.4km of twin-tube tunnels, and the 16.5km Metro North, which comprises a further 10km of bored tunnels, have both been taken off the agenda until at least 2016. The two projects were planned by Ireland's previous national Government that was defeated in a landslipe election dominated by the country's financial meltdown in February. Both were designed as vital to providing the capital with an integrated public mass transit network, the Dart Interconnector described by Irish Rail as "the crucial final link that will release the full potential of an expanded and improved rail network into and out of Dublin."

Fig 1. Metro North project shelved

The new Government's Department of Public Expenditure explained that, "In the context of reduced resources, larger public transport projects proposed such as Metro North and DART Underground, which were to be advanced as PPP projects, but which require very significant Government contributions, cannot proceed at this time."
In June 2009 two consortia from an original four were selected to proceed to the final stage of PPP procurement for the main works of Metro North, a project with substantial TBM tunnelling northwards under Dublin city centre and under Dublin Airport (Fig 1). The two groups were:
Celtic Metro Group comprising Barclays Private Equity, Obrascon Huarte Lain, Mitsui, Soares da Costa, Iridium Concesionesde Infraestructuras S.A., CAF and MTR
Metro Express of partners Macquarie Capital, Global Via Infrastructuras, Allied Irish Bank, Bombardier and Transdev RATP
A Framework Agreement was also in place with eight contractors to begin enabling works within three months of receiving Government approval. That list comprised GMC Group, Murphy & Sons, John Paul Construction, SIAC Construction, J Sisk Construction, Ward & Burke, Coffey Construction, and Farrans Construction.
The second project, the estimated €2 billion, 7.4km DART Interconnector, was to have connected the Northern and Kildare rail lines via five underground stations and 7.4km of twin running tunnels, and provide further links to two existing DART lines, commuter lines, and creating a link at the central St Stephens station to the proposed Metro North line (Fig 2 and 3).
The project involved using two TBMs to excavate twin tunnels 25m under Dublin city centre.
  • Fig 2. DART Interconnector Tunnel alignment

    Fig 2. DART Interconnector Tunnel alignment

  • Fig 3. Dublin's existing and planned rail networks

    Fig 3. Dublin's existing and planned rail networks

Four international consortia entered last year's prequalification phase for the DART Interconnector and an announcement had been expected next year towards a project completion in 2018. They prequalifiers were:
BBI Consortium of Balfour Beatty Capital, BAM PPP Investments Ireland, and Iridium Concesiones de Infraestructuras
City Connect Consortium comprising Macquarie Capital Group, Cintra Infraestructuras, and Global Via Infraestructuras.
NascRail Consortium of OHL Concesiones, Soares da Costa Concessoes SGPS, Allied Irish Banks, Bombardier Transportation, and Pierse Contracting
Toto Consortium of Toto Costruzioni Generali, Societa Italiana per Condotte d'Acqua, Ansaldo STS, Condotte Immobiliare, Torrena Scavi, and Rocksoil
As one small concession, the Irish Government stated in a release last month that these projects are being "deferred, not cancelled." The statement added that "they remain key elements of the overall integrated transport strategy and will be progressed when fiscal and market conditions improve."
"While there may be some criticism of the decision," continued the statement, "any reasonable consideration of the facts endorses the rationale for this course of action. Both projects are PPP schemes and given the multi-billion scale of private finance required it has not been possible to secure the necessary finance since the start of the economic downturn. Given current financial market conditions, and taking account of Ireland's general economic circumstances, it is unlikely that private investors would be willing to commit the level of funding necessary for these major infrastructural projects for some time."
The news is in contrast to the neighbouring UK which this week announced a priority list of infrastructure projects that includes a continuing commitment to the estimated £14.5 billion Crossrail scheme, a draft timetable for the estimated £32 billion High-Speed 2 scheme, and a range of measures to enable the development of a London Underground extension of the Northern Line to Battersea. Following the near-collapse of the Irish economy last year however, interest rates on loans raised by the Irish Government would be substantially higher than for the British Government.
Four pre-qualify for Dublin's DART PPP - TunnelTalk, Aug 2010
UK budget commits to infrastructure projects - TunnelTalk, Dec 2011
Amsterdam conference considered Euro zone market place - TunnelTalk, Dec 2011

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