European Investment Bank in talks over NI transport projects

By Julian O'Neill
BBC News NI Business Correspondent

Image caption,
The European Investment Bank is based in Luxembourg

The European Union's bank could be asked to fund major transport projects in Northern Ireland.

Officials from the European Investment Bank have held meetings in Belfast, including talks with Stormont's finance and transport ministers.

The Luxembourg-based bank lends money on low-interest, long-term deals for big infrastructure projects.

More cash could follow the £150m it has already provided towards the University of Ulster's new Belfast campus.

One scheme that could potentially benefit from the talks is the Belfast Rapid Transit System, a proposed £100m bus network.

Another is the Belfast Transport Hub, a major redevelopment of the city's Great Victoria Street railway station.

Northern Ireland's Finance Minister Simon Hamilton is due to travel to Luxembourg next month, where he will meet bank officials to explore investment possibilities.

He said he thinks that councils in Northern Ireland should also look into funding opportunities.

"I will ensure all available avenues for accessing finance are fully explored and exploited," Mr Hamilton said.

The bank's University of Ulster loan is its first direct investment scheme in Northern Ireland in ten years.

The vice president of the European Investment Bank, Jonathan Taylor, said: "We are committed to supporting similar quality investment in key infrastructure in Northern Ireland in the future."

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