Written Answers. - Light Rail Project.

Róisín Shortall

Question:

301 Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Transport if he will review the contract with a company (details supplied) to operate Luas in view of that company's financial difficulties in the UK; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19353/03]

I understand from the Railway Procurement Agency that Connex Transport Ireland is a separate, stand-alone subsidiary of the Veolia Group, an international transportation and environmental services group. Connex Ireland has no direct connection with Connex Transport UK.

The contract to operate the Luas was signed in May 2002 between the Railway Procurement Agency, RPA, and the rail operator, Connex. The services operated by Connex in the UK are not comparable with the situation regarding Luas. Connex's UK operation was based on heavy rail infrastructure while the Luas light rail infrastructure and rolling stock is new and of the highest quality.

Connex was selected following an EU competitive tendering process. The contract is for five years from commencement of operations. Prior to awarding this contract, the RPA reviewed Connex's performance on light rail systems worldwide. While it is not appropriate for me to comment on a commercial contract between two bodies, I understand that the operations contract for Luas includes rigorous performance targets for reliability, availability and service quality. Connex Ireland will face financial penalties if it does not meet the targets set out in the contract. The RPA will monitor Connex's performance during the contract period.

Connex Ireland is already mobilising operations in Dublin, in preparation for the commencement of passenger services in June 2004. The RPA is confident in Connex's ability to operate Luas to meet the highest standards of performance for the commuters of Dublin.