Written Answers. - Airport Safety Standards.
320 Mrs. Owen asked the Minister for Public Enterprise her views on recent reports that fire safety and safety matters in general are being questioned in Dublin Airport by some of the airline companies; the action she has taken as a result of these reports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20128/00]
321 Mrs. Owen asked the Minister for Public Enterprise the discussions she has had with the management of Aer Rianta with regard to the conditions in Dublin Airport; if her attention has been drawn to the high degree of frustration and complaints that airport management are receiving on a daily basis from passengers using the airport; the actions she proposes to take in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [20129/00]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 320 and 321 together.
I met with the Chairman and the Chief Executive of Aer Rianta on 26 September 2000 to express my concern about congestion and safety at Dublin Airport, which gave rise to numerous complaints and media reports over recent weeks.
Aer Rianta assures me that the fire safety arrangements at Dublin Airport comply fully with the national standards of the Department of the Environment and Local Government. Fire safety risk assessments are carried out by Aer Rianta on an ongoing basis and the airport holds a current fire safety certificate in accordance with the provisions of the Building Control Act and the building control regulations.
I am, however, concerned that not only should general safety and fire safety standards be maintained at the highest possible levels but that all users of Dublin Airport should enjoy an acceptable degree of comfort in using the airport's facilities.
I fully accept, as does the company, that passengers were inconvenienced at certain times over the summer months as a result of the major building programme under way at Dublin Airport. It is inevitable, given the combination of this very necessary building programme with rising passenger traffic, that people will be inconvenienced to some extent through congestion and delays. Aer Rianta is investing over £350 million in a major expansion programme at the airport which will provide greater comfort for the ever increasing numbers of passengers using its facilities. This expansion includes additional baggage hall and arrivals capacity, new check-in desks, equipment and technology, new exits and entrances, escalators and lifts. New and expanded catering services are also being provided in this development programme.
As Deputies will be aware, I recently announced an important initiative to ease overcrowding at Dublin Airport which involves responsibility for the co-ordination of take-off and landing slots being assigned to an independent management body. Heretofore, this function was handled by agreement among the airlines themselves on anad hoc basis, a system which worked satisfactorily in the past when the levels of passenger traffic and aircraft movements, particularly at peak times, were not as high as they are now. Passenger traffic at Dublin is expected to reach almost 14 million this year compared to just eight million as recently as five years ago.
My Department is currently engaged in the process of engaging experts to take over the current slot co-ordination function at Dublin Airport with a view to having them in place within a fortnight and I believe that this will assist in alleviating congestion. I am also, as a matter of urgency, arranging for the appointment of consultants to conduct a study to assist my determination as to whether Dublin Airport should be designated as a "fully co-ordinated" airport. Subject to timely completion of this study, which is required by EU regulation, it is my intention to make a decision on this issue prior to a major international conference on slots to be held in the US in mid-November at which Aer Rianta will inform the world's major airlines as to the slot status of Dublin Airport.
Initiatives have also been taken by Aer Rianta on the ground at Dublin Airport to ease congestion and to ensure that safety standards are fully maintained. At my request, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Aer Rianta have intensified the level of consultation and co-operation with the major airlines using the airport and I am satisfied that everything possible is being done to reduce the temporary inconvenience caused to passengers and staff at the airport.
Question No. 322 taken with Question No. 292.