Written Answers. - Internal Air Service.

Robert Molloy

Question:

47 Mr. Molloy asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications the future plans, if any, he has for the operation of a nationwide internal air service linking regional and national airports. [3866/97]

The air transport liberalisation measures adopted in the EU allow for free access to the market. It is open to individual airlines to operate whatever international routes they wish depending on their own commercial judgment. From 1 April 1997, this freedom will be extended to include operation of internal point to point services in any member state by air carriers licensed by other member states.

EU Council Regulation 2408/92 allows for the attachment by a member state of public service obligations in respect of scheduled air services to airports serving peripheral or development regions in its territory to routes to any regional airport in its territory where the traffic is thin and which are considered vital for the economic development of the region served by the airport. Under the regulation a member state may reimburse an air carrier for the discharge of public service obligations.
Public service obligations have been attached to the air routes linking Dublin and the regional airports at Carrickfin, County Donegal, Sligo, Galway and Farranfore, County Kerry. Operating contracts were awarded following a competitive tendering process for three of these routes — Dublin-Galway, Dublin-Kerry and Dublin-Carrickfin. Proposals for the fourth route, DublinSligo, are at present being examined in my Department with a view to early commencement of an operating contract. The provision in my Department's 1997 Vote for the programme is £1.6 million.
The public service programme improves access to the north-west, west and south-western regions of Ireland through the network of air services operating to and from Dublin. I do not consider that it is necessary to attach public service obligations to any further routes. Aer Lingus operates services on a commercial basis between Shannon Airport and Dublin and between Cork Airport and Dublin. As I mentioned, Irish airlines or airlines from any other EU member state are free to operate internal services if they wish to do so, with effect from 1 April 1997. They would, of course, have to satisfy themselves that the services would be economically viable.