Following on from our previous article regarding the MetroLink Project (the “Project”), we have set out below the most recent position following the publication of a Market Update on 15 October 2021 (the “Update”) and an updated Frequently Asked Questions document, dated October 2021 (the “FAQ”).
National Development Plan 2021-2030
The Update refers to the publication by the Government of the National Development Plan 2021-2030 on 4 October 2021 (the “Plan”) and the inclusion of the Project in the Plan as a key priority in meeting Ireland’s future public transport needs.
The Plan refers to the Project as “the largest ever public investment project in the history of the State” and goes on to say that “this Government is committed to its funding and delivery as quickly as possible”.
The Plan has not listed the estimated completion date for the Project but refers to the cost estimated as in excess of €1 billion.
Current status of the Project
The Update outlines the current status of the Project, indicating that it is anticipated that the National Transport Authority and the Department of Transport will present the preliminary business case for the consideration by Government shortly and seek approval in principle for the Project which is the next stage in the process set out in the Public Spending Code (the “PSC”).
Once such approval is obtained, Transport Infrastructure Ireland (“TII”) may then proceed to the next stage in the process set out in the PSC (Project Design, Planning and Procurement Strategy) and apply for the Railway Order (the equivalent of a planning permission).
The FAQ makes it clear that construction work can only proceed when a Railway Order has been granted and Government approval of the business case has been received.
Timelines for the Project
The Update outlines that TII are targeting the first half of 2022 for its submission of the Railway Order application.
The FAQ goes on to say that the planning process with An Bord Pleanála is likely to take 12-18 months to complete and once a Railway Order has been granted, work can commence on site. It is anticipated that the construction work will take between 6-8 years to complete.
The FAQ notes that the Project is “categorised as a “mega-project” – a large-scale, complex venture that typically costs €1 billion or more”.
The FAQ states that “a comprehensive approach to forecasting project costs” will be put in place which will assist in ensuring that the best cost forecast information is available when final decisions regarding the Project need to be made.
It also states that “the forecast of costs can only be established when the final arrangements for the project are sufficiently clear, and the design has been sufficiently advanced to allow a proper realistic assessment of the base costs”.
The Update outlines that TII intends to progress its market consultation in respect of the Project, particularly on the anticipated use of a public-private partnership (PPP) approach for the delivery of the rolling stock, line-wide systems, and service operations (the “PPP Consultation”).
The PPP Consultation is expected to commence in November and its purpose is to explore with potential sponsors and financiers the level of interest and market capacity to support the financing of the PPP, as well as to consult on its scope and commercial structure.
The Update also indicates that the PPP Consultation will also examine how using a PPP approach could help the Project meet its objectives, including in respect of sustainable outcomes and the use of green energy.
More detailed information will be issued shortly together with an indicative timeframe for the process (with an information document and questionnaire made available to interested parties as part of the consultation).
It is expected that the PPP Consultation will likely take place remotely but some in-person meetings may be facilitated in line with public health guidance.
In respect of the three main design-build contract packages for the core infrastructure, further consultation is also scheduled to be held during 2022.
TII appointments for advisers and professional services
The Update lists a number of appointments recently made by TII and other appointments expected to be the subject of upcoming tenders, including technical support services, specialist financial advisory services and insurance advisers.