The European Investment Bank is lending GBP 61 million to upgrade sections of the M1 and M2 motorways around Belfast. The Westlink is part of a priority project in the EU transport policy: a trans-European road corridor from the port of Larne in Northern Ireland to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland, along the Eastern coast. Such transport networks are vital for European integration, especially when improving connections with assisted regions, as is the case with Northern Ireland. These works are indeed expected to reduce congestion and journey times, while improving the accessibility of Belfast port for industry.

The project will take the form of a Private Public Partnership (PPP). EIB funds will be lent to the private sector partner, Highway Management (city) Finance Plc, a special purpose company led by the German multi-services group, Bilfinger Berger BOT, and incorporating local contractors John Graham (Dromore) Ltd. and Northstone (NI) Ltd. They will design, build, finance and maintain a section of the motorway, under a 30-year concession granted by the Northern Ireland Department for Regional Development.

On signing the loan in Belfast last week, Peter Sedgwick, Vice President of the EIB stated: "Trans-European transport networks are the arteries of the Single Market. They promote the free movement of people and goods and an efficient division of labour. The EIB is proud to have devoted EUR 40 billion to this priority since 2000."

The European Investment Bank, the European Union's long-term lending institution, finances capital investment furthering EU integration, in particular: regional development; research, development and innovation; trans-European transport, telecom and energy networks; industrial competitiveness; SMEs, and environmental protection. It also operates outside the EU within the framework of the EU's policy for co-operation and development. Owned by its Member States, the EIB raises its funds on the capital markets (AAA-rated issuer). In 2005, it borrowed EUR 50bn and lent a total of EUR 47bn, of which EUR 42bn in the EU-25.