At a meeting with Government ministers, the newly created Rail Procurement Agency (RPA) has been given permission to establish a competition with a view to appointing a company that will build, operate and finance the new system.
The 70km system, twelve to fourteen kilometres of which will be underground, is expected to eventually carry over 200 million passengers annually.
To be built in two phases, the first phase will establish a line from Dublin Airport to the city centre to Bray, with a spur to Blanchardstown.
The LUAS line to Sandyford, which is still under construction, will also be upgraded to metro status. In all, phase one is expected to be finished by 2007.
The second phase will involve the extension to the Blanchardstown line to Clondalkin and Tallaght to the city centre as well as an extension of the airport line to Swords.
When the plan was first mooted by the Dublin Transportation Office (DTO) construction costs were expected to rise to €7.2bn, but, according to Ms O’ Rourke, this will depend on route alignment and commercial development potential.
“The metro represents the biggest infrastructure project ever undertaken by the State,” Ms O’ Rourke said. “There is considerable interest in this project from around the world [and] I have no doubt that many of the companies which have expressed an interest and have formed consortia are prepared to become involved in the Dublin metro once the process gets underway.”
Ms O’ Rourke also indicated that the routes on the north side of the city to the airport would be given priority in order to cater for the expected increase in traffic through the airport.
“Despite the terrible events of September 11th, passenger numbers at Dublin Airport are expected to rise significantly over the next few years,” she said.
“Dublin is one of the few capital cities in Europe without a rail link to its airport [and] it is vital that a fast efficient transport system is in place to meet those demands.”
However, the Labour spokesperson on Public Enterprise, Mr Emmet Stagg, has described that plan as a “charade” and said commuters in Dublin would not be fooled by it.
“This Government’s record on public transport in Dublin has been appalling,” Mr Stagg said.
“Despite the massive resources available to it the Government has singularly failed to put in place a coherent transport plan for the capital.
“This is the Government that delayed LUAS, failed to introduce integrated ticketing and has stood by while traffic gridlock costs the capital millions each year in both economic and social terms.
“Do the Cabinet seriously expect the public to believe that they are the outfit that can deliver a Metro system?”
Mr Stagg also accused the Government of procrastination on the issue for the past 18 months and said that despite commitments made in the DTO’s draft plan for Dublin in 2000, nothing had been done yet.
“The issue of a metro has been on the Government agenda for at least 18 months,” he added.
“It was included in the Dublin Transport Office’s draft transport plan for the capital in the Spring of 2000.
“Nothing has happened in the intervening 18 months, except for today’s announcement which is remarkably similar to what the Government supposedly sanctioned a year and a half ago.”