Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Questions (60)

Oral answers (13 contributions) (Question to Transport)

I remind those Deputies who are participating, and the Minister, to observe the clock.

Robert Troy


60. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on the construction of a second runway at Dublin Airport; if this is a priority over the construction of a third terminal; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45945/18]

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What are the Minister’s views on the construction of a second runway at Dublin Airport? Does he consider it a priority to ensure the construction of a second runway and for it to be operational ahead of the construction of a third terminal in light of the recent report the Minister initially leaked and subsequently published?

I welcome the Deputy's question and the opportunity it provides to reiterate my full support, and that of the Government, for the provision of additional runway capacity at Dublin Airport. The airport experienced its seventh consecutive year of growth last year, welcoming close to 30 million passengers, and the importance of ensuring that we have adequate airport capacity at our biggest airport to drive national economic growth cannot be overstated.

Project 2040 recognises, at a national level, the importance of delivering the north runway as soon as possible, given its strategic importance for the country. With the award last week by the Dublin Airport Authority, DAA, of the main construction contract for the north runway, I look forward to the commencement of the works and their completion in early 2021.

In addition to the north runway, the DAA's focus is on delivering a package of projects that are needed to address existing capacity constraints at the airport, and the authority has recently announced its plans to spend in the region of €900 million by 2023 on an expansion of airside facilities. These projects will ensure that the airport can accommodate the expected growth over the coming years to approximately 40 million passengers. Ireland needs those projects to be completed to ensure maximum international connectivity for the economy.

While there is no question over the priority accorded to addressing the immediate capacity development requirements at Dublin Airport, it would be wrong to lose sight of the need to plan for the longer term. To that end, as the Deputy will be aware, Oxford Economics in conjunctions with Cambridge Economic Policy Associates were contracted last year, in line with a commitment outlined in the national aviation policy, to conduct a high-level strategic capacity review of Ireland's State airports. This review was delivered to me at the end of August and provides a very helpful assessment, which is both specific about short-term actions as well as identifying further work that needs to be undertaken to assist in decision-making for the longer term to 2050.

I am sure the Deputy will agree that it is critical to get strategic development decisions right. To ensure that there is an open approach to the options for Dublin Airport, including any decision on a third terminal, I have just commenced a process of consultation on the review in which all stakeholders will have an opportunity to set out their views. When I have all the views and information available to me, I will carefully consider the issues and make recommendations to the Government in early 2019.

The select leaking of elements from the report on terminal 3 supports the Minister's view on an independent terminal, but the authors of the report say an independent terminal might not be worth the effort. A third terminal would be premature given the much more pressing demands for an operational runway, additional aircraft stands, a taxiway and parking stands. What is the rush? Has the Minister engaged with the DAA on terminal 3? Has he engaged with any private stakeholder or developer on their interests in terminal 3?

The Minister referred to plans that are under way by the DAA on the €900 million development. Does he have any concern that the red herring he raised about an independent third terminal might put those very plans in jeopardy and have a negative effect on decisions that are being taken to increase the capacity that is needed here and now?

These are not competing projects. They can run in parallel and they have a very different timeline. The aim is that the runway would be completed by 2021 but we have to think more long term given the capacity problems that afflict Dublin Airport in particular. As Deputy Troy is aware, at the moment Dublin Airport has approximately 30 million passengers going through it annually. What is anticipated in the report, to which the Deputy refers, is that passenger numbers could increase to between 50 million and 60 million by 2050. The runway is a very short-term project compared with what we have to consider in the long term.

In general, airport infrastructure must be considered in the long term. The Government realises that the run-in for such projects takes a long time and, as promised and as we are obliged to do, we commissioned a report that came up with some startling figures. An independent third terminal is one option that has been considered. My Department and others will be involved in talks and consultations with stakeholders about the prospects for a third terminal and the need for it.

It is a fact that the report was not requested by the Government's national aviation policy in 2015. Has the Minister met the DAA to discuss a third terminal? He can indicate whether the answer is yes or no. Has he met any key private stakeholders about the third terminal? Again, the Minister can indicate whether the answer is yes or no.

An independent noise regulator is critical to the runway that is to be constructed by 2021. Will the legislation for such a regulator be enacted before Christmas of this year, as was promised? Is the Minister confident that the legislation he is introducing will be sufficiently robust and independent considering that we are one of the few countries that is opting for the local authority to be appointed the independent noise regulator?

The DAA must make a submission to the Commission for Aviation Regulation by the end of the year on charges and the €900 million worth of planned development works to deal with current capacity requirements. However, the Minister adding the red herring of a third terminal into the mix puts a question mark over the feasibility of what is being proposed.

The Deputy is mistaken. The €900 million which the DAA intends to spend is aimed at dealing with a maximum potential of 40 million passengers. However, we must plan for beyond that point. The DAA is making some good, serious and constructive suggestions. I made an effort to meet the DAA to discuss matters, and I will meet the authority in the very near future to see what its plans are.

Did the Minister meet the DAA - yes or no?

The DAA could not meet me.

Did the Minister meet any private stakeholders?

Let me make it absolutely clear: I will meet anyone who has a vested interest, including the DAA, private interests, Aer Lingus, Ryanair and anybody else who has an interest in the development of Dublin Airport, if they have a constructive interest in doing that. The future of Dublin Airport is very exciting but it is very demanding, and we have to consider every possible option. That is what the report did. I have not made up my mind-----

What is the rush?

-----nor am I intent on making up my mind in the next two weeks, ahead of the findings from the consultations with the stakeholders. The Deputy will understand that when that has been done, I will be very happy to make an early decision because airport infrastructure demands long-term but early decisions.