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Metro plan back on track as EIB pledges €500m

THE STALLED Dublin Metro was given a boost with the news that the European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed in principle to contribute €500m to the project.

The Metro scheme would provide a 19km link from Dublin city centre, via the airport, to Swords in the north of the county and the funding, if approved, will amount to 8pc of the project's estimated €6bn cost.

The funds are subject to full board approval and a decision of the Government here to go ahead with the scheme.

The bank was examining two other public-private partnership projects to create part of a second western transport corridor between Cork, Limerick and Galway, the N17-N18 Gort to Tuam motorway link and the N11-N7 motorway.

The EIB said that last year it provided €1.02bn for six projects in Ireland, the largest ever amount secured by the country.

The bank's financing included €300m provided for Eirgrid's east-west interconnector, €300m to the new terminal at Dublin airport and €200m for ESB wind farms.

The European Union's lender made €260m available to Irish small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through credit lines with Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank, of which two-thirds have been drawn down.

And the EIB would consider further funding for Irish SMEs, he said, describing the take-up of the credit already provided by the bank to firms as "satisfactory".

The bank, which is owned by the 27 EU member states, has provided loans of more than €5bn for capital investment projects since 2000.

The bank's vice president, Plutarchos Sakellaris, is currently on a visit to Ireland where he met with Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, Governor the Central Bank Patrick Honohan, Transport Minister Noel Dempsey and officials from the Financial Regulatory Authority.

"We are confident that industry, transport, social infrastructure, health and education will continue to benefit from EIB support in coming years," he said.

"The EIB increased its lending to a record level in Ireland last year as it saw "a large pool of worthwhile, financially viable projects," he added.

"If, of course, there is a demand for loans and we are presented with appropriate projects, we stand ready to lend to sustainable, economically viable projects."