The European Investment Bank recently signalled its support for Government efforts to improve public transport provision in the Greater Dublin region, with the signature of EUR 60 million in loan facilities for the Rail Procurement Agency (RPA). EIB funds will support the development of the first stage of the new LUAS light rail system for Dublin. The facilities from EIB are the core of an intermediate financing structure for RPA which will also include two private banks.

Rapid economic development of the Greater Dublin region has led to large increases in incomes, employment and car use. The Dublin public transport network has not kept pace with demand, leading to increased congestion and demand for development on peripheral greenfield sites. Faced with this rapid growth the Government undertook range of planning initiatives culminating in the publication of the first integrated long term transport strategy for the region in November 2001 - A Platform for Change'.

A Platform for Change' responded to the expected growth in housing, employment and transport with a strategy centred around substantial investment in the public transport network by Government, coupled to demand management measures. Two core corridors - from Dun Laoghaire towards the North, and from the West towards the Centre - were identified as key priorities, and these are reflected in the routes chosen for LUAS lines A/C and B which the EIB is supporting. The strategy allowed for flexible responses to demand growth by providing for LUAS to be upgradeable to Metro on much of its route. The Department for Transport recognised the scale and importance of this task by setting up RPA at the end of 2001to manage the construction of the new network.

LUAS will provide a high quality, high capacity, rapid service between Tallaght and Connolly Station (via Abbey Street), and between Sandyford and St. Stephens Green, from Summer and Autumn 2004. In addition to direct improvements in service quality for existing public transport users, LUAS is expected to reduce congestion by attracting new users to public transport, and to provide wider benefits from improvements to the urban environment. Extensions are already under discussion to underpin urban regeneration taking place in the former Docks area to the West of Connolly Station. In the longer term, LUAS is expected to be integrated with the Metro project being developed to serve the Airport. In addition to its role in providing medium term financing to bridge the gap between investment in LUAS and receipts of Government grants, EIB has been working closely with RPA to ensure that its substantial experience of similar projects across the European Union is available to support RPA's development of Metro.

The EIB's vice president, Mr Michael Tutty said that EIB is extremely happy to be part of the development of a flagship transport infrastructure project for Dublin. The RPA Chairman Mr Padraic White conveyed the RPA Boards satisfaction with the signature of the agreement with EIB as the core part of the Agency's new financing structure. The proposed arrangements with the EIB and two private banks offer a competitive solution to the Agency's financing requirements over the next two years.

The Agency's management are being supported by the National Development Finance Agency during the implementation of the new financing structure. Jim Farrell, Chief Executive of NDFA, said "The NDFA is delighted to have acted as Financial Advisor to the RPA on this important transaction. We value our long - standing relationship with the EIB and very much welcome its participation in this core element of the RPA's funding program.

EIB is the European Union's long term economic development institution, and supports EU policy objectives (including regional and environmental policies) through long term lending. By providing finance for the LUAS project the Bank recognises the contribution LUAS is expected to make to the improvement of the urban environment in the Greater Dublin area.

The European Investment Bank will hold its annual Forum in Dublin on 23 and 24 October 2003 on the theme Visions of Environmental Sustainability: Europe's Long Term Energy and Water Policies. Issues for discussion are the EU Member States' strategy for achieving environmental sustainability in energy and alternative energy futures for Europe and their financial viability. The Forum will further discuss sustainable water management and take a look at innovative financing instruments. Speakers include EU Commissioner Wallström and Ministers from EU Member States and Central and Eastern Europe as well as industrialists and bankers. Some 400 guests from all over Europe will attend the Forum.