Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Questions (87)

Pádraic McCormack

Question:

198 Mr. McCormack asked the Minister for Transport his plans for the development of regional airports; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [2291/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Transport)

The programme for Government provides for the continued support of our six regional airports and for regional air access. My Department provides a range of financial mechanisms in support of this objective, namely, subvention of the PSO services which facilitate air access to the regions concerned, the allocation of assistance towards marketing, safety and security related expenditure incurred by the regional airports and capital grant assistance towards infrastructural improvements under the regional operational programmes of the NDP.

A renewed three-year PSO air services programme was launched in 2002 in accordance with the programme for Government. I am currently considering the outcome of an expenditure review of PSO air services, which points to the dramatic escalation of subvention costs in recent years and questions whether the programme is achieving its objectives in the most cost effective way. I hope to outline my decision on the future approach to PSO air services shortly.

My Department administers a grant scheme to assist the regional airports with marketing, safety and security related current expenditure. The total amount provisionally allocated in the Estimates for 2004 is €2.24 million and the individual amounts for each airport will be determined shortly.

With regard to capital funding, grant-aid of approximately €9.2 million has already been approved under first round allocations under the regional airports measure of the NDP. The primary objective of this measure is to facilitate continued safe and viable operations at the regional airports. A further round of projects will be considered for funding under the measure during this year.

The Government's commitment to regional airports will continue. However, the scale of Exchequer assistance to the regional airports will have to be carefully assessed in line with general airport and aviation policy and the availability of Exchequer funds.