Considerable progress has been made in the construction of the Luas project. I understand from the RPA that construction will be completed by May 2004 for the Tallaght-Connolly Station line, line A/C, and March 2004 for the Sandyford-St. Stephen's Green line, line B. This compares with the original contractual dates of October 2003 for line A and December 2003 for line B. Following a period of testing and commissioning, passenger services will begin at the end of August 2004 for the Tallaght-Connolly Station line and end of June 2004 for the Sandyford-St. Stephen's Green line.
Government approval for the capital cost of €466 million — comprising €235 million for line A, €201 million for line B and €30 million for line C — for the Luas project was given in 2000, based on preliminary estimates submitted by CIE in 1999 prices. The budget was revised in February 2001 to €675 million — comprising €338 million for line A, €295 million for line B and €42 million for line C — plus a risk provision of €89 million to take account of competitive tender prices received, reflecting high inflation in the construction sector, higher than anticipated property acquisition costs and changes to the scope of the project, mainly related to the provision for upgrading line B to metro status.
In December 2002 the Government noted the increase in the budget to €691 million — comprising €358 million for line A, €290 million for line B and €43 million for line C — plus a risk provision of €84 million. The reasons for the increase of €16 million are the higher than anticipated costs associated with the demolition of the Connolly Station ramp and increases in the costs of utilities and enabling works. I have been informed by the RPA that the project is within the €691 million budget and risk provision, as notified to the Government in December 2002.