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New laws to fast track Irish infrastructure

RADICAL NEW legislation to fast-track major infrastructure projects is being planned by the Irish government amid a review of the proposed Dublin Metro which has cut costs from e4.8bn (US $4.8bn) to e3.4bn (US $3.4bn).

A shorter route for the parttunnel line between the airport and the city centre cutting out interchanges to three city centre stations has helped shave ú484M off construction costs for the partly-tunnelled line, while VAT and land compensation costs are also lower.

The Rail Procurement Agency and transport minister Seamus Brennan have studied the Madrid Metro, hailed as a model of efficiency.

Madrid Metro head civil engineer Professor Manuel Melis, last week told the Irish cabinet and politicians to cut out waste and bureacracy. The state should not pay high fees to 'consultants who consult with consultants and advisers who advise advisers' and he said planning, consultation and tendering could be done in months.

Utilitarian no-frills stations avoiding 'fancy architects and beautiful designs' were advocated: 'You should avoid exhibition type stations. You are in a tunnel, why do you need beauty? Nobody cares, ' he argued.

Tighter Irish government finances and a near doubling in the cost of the US $6.1bn road programme has prompted detailed scrutiny of projects by the government which said it is willing to borrow to fund infrastructure projects to deal with chronic transport problems.

The Dublin Metro and Critical Infrastructure Bills, which could be debated this autumn, are intended to reduce planning and land compensation costs.

Non-stop tunnelling work may be considered.

Expressing frustration with poor delivery, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said in Athens that projects in Ireland had to 'go through [too many] hoops, through all environmental, planning and blah blah blah, and every blah costs a few hundred million'.

Any legislation affecting landowners' rights could however be open to a potentially lengthy constitutional challenge.

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