Four consortiums battle it out for DART contract
Macquarie and Balfour Beatty in running for €2.5bn underground deal
Some of the world's largest construction, engineering and investment banking groups -- including Macquarie and Balfour Beatty -- are believed to be on the shortlist for the DART Underground project, with an official announcement expected today.
Irish Rail will announce today that four consortiums have reached the pre-qualification phase for the DART Underground, a public-private partnership (PPP) contract believed to be worth €2.5bn.
The exact make-up of the consortiums will be disclosed in a statement later, but the Irish Independent understands Balfour Beatty Capital Ltd, Macquarie Capital Group and Bombardier Transportation UK are involved in three of the four consortiums as key partners.
Interest from international banking and engineering groups has been considerable but due to the scale of the work involved and the financing needs few Irish firms were in a position to express an interest.
Last week, the Government gave the project a boost when Taoiseach Brian Cowen said it would form part of its capital investment programme.
The statement today is expected to outline the contribution the project will make on the employment front, with 7,000 jobs created during each year of construction.
Irish Rail, the state partner in the project, claims indirect employment will also be created by improving access to certain parts of the city.
The DART Underground will effectively be a 7.6km tunnel connecting the Northern and Kildare rail lines, with new underground stations at Spencer Dock, Pearse Street, St Stephen's Green, Christchurch and Heuston.
There will also be a new surface station at Inchicore.
It is hoped DART Underground will be used by 64,000 commuters per hour.
Rail bosses have said that the new line will dramatically increase frequency and capacity for commuters on DART Northern, Maynooth and Kildare lines -- the three fastest-growing population corridors in the country -- and relieve congestion at Connolly Station.
A cost-benefit analysis of the project has been done and Irish Rail said this showed that the project would ultimately be self-financing.
"It forecasts that DART Underground will generate almost 2.5 times more benefit than it will cost to build and will deliver significant wider economic benefits,'' said the company recently.
Under the contract, the successful private partner will be responsible for the design, construction, financing, commissioning and maintenance of the tunnel, stations and other facilities over the period of the PPP contract.
At this stage, the contract is envisaged to last for between 25 and 35 years, including the design and construction stages.
In return, the private partner will receive an annual "availability and performance-based'' payment.
Irish Rail will at all times retain responsibility for the operation of DART services through the tunnel.
A contract is expected to be awarded by mid-2012 with construction completed and services starting by the end of 2018.