Written Answers. - Regional Airports.

Edward Nealon

Question:

114 Mr. Nealon asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications if the essential air services programme introduced in 1995, in accordance with EU regulations, for the regional airports of Sligo, Donegal, Galway and Kerry, which it has not been possible to put into operation so far in Sligo and Donegal, will be available to the regional airports in 1996; if arrangements can be made for the Sligo and Donegal routes to avail of the benefits of the programme in the future while still conforming to the EU regulations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17965/95]

There have been two unsuccessful tendering procedures under the Essential Air Services Programme for the Dublin/ Sligo/Dublin and Dublin/Donegal/ Dublin routes. Strict criteria are laid down, in accordance with European Regulations, with which applicant airlines have to comply. The tenders received in response to the previous invitations were assessed at length in my Department in consultation with the European Commission. Unfortunately, these tenders presented serious difficulties, for both the Department and the Commission, in relation to the suitability of the airlines and the scale of the financial compensation sought for operating the services. I cannot be any more precise for confidentiality reasons.

I am arranging for a further call for tenders for these two routes to be inserted in the Official Journal of the European Communities.

My Department is consulting closely with both Sligo and Donegal Airport managements and with the European Commission about changes in the specifications for the essential services in order to enhance the prospect of a successful outcome to this third attempt to secure suitable applicants.
If the outcome is successful, it is hoped to award operating contracts in time for the 1996 season.