I welcome Mr. Robert Hilliard, director of Dublin Airport, and Mr. DavidHepburn, general manager of public affairs. I remind everyone present to ensure their mobile phones are turned off. I draw attention to the fact that members of this committee have absolute privilege but this same privilege does not apply to witnesses appearing before the committee. I also remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice that members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House, or an official, in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I call on Mr. Hilliard to begin the presentation.
Dublin Airport: Presentation.
Mr. Robert Hilliard
I thank the committee for the opportunity of putting forward Aer Rianta's case for additional runway capacity at Dublin Airport. In 2002, Dublin Airport was the second fastest growing European airport, with more than 15 million passengers using it. There were more than 180,000 movements by aircraft on 123 routes by 70 airlines. We serve many different markets and over 50% of our passengers travel to and from the UK - 30% to and from London. Just over one third travel to and from Europe and about 5% travel either domestically or across the Atlantic.
Dublin Airport exerts a significant positive impact on the local, regional and national economies. By 2023, given development, the airport will support over 51,000 jobs and will generate over €3 billion worth of annual income in Ireland. By contrast, if a new runway is not constructed and the development of the airport is constrained, by 2023, the total employment supported nationally by the airport will fall slightly from its current level.
One of the key and core activities for airport managers, such as Aer Rianta, is planning. The planning horizon for an airport is often very long-range - 25 to 40 years - with detailed planning over eight to ten years into the future. Dublin Airport is the beneficiary of excellent long-range planning in the 1960s and 1970s and it is virtually unique in Europe in that the land use, road networks and infrastructure were safeguarded and secured for the sustainable development of the airport into the 21st century. Master-planning studies undertaken in the 1960s concluded that two parallel runways should be constructed at Dublin Airport. In line with this plan, land was purchased and a consultative process was started with Dublin County Council. This resulted in the incorporation of plans for two parallel runways in the 1972 county development plan, over 30 years ago.
While the technicalities of runway utilisation can become very complex, the principles are simply those of supply and demand. That demand stems from a forecast growth in activity, which is expected to see 21.5 million passengers being carried on well over 200,000 aircraft movements by 2009. That produces a demand that cannot be met on the existing runway system. Traffic growth projections in passenger numbers indicate that by 2020 Dublin Airport could handle 31 million passengers. To support this growth, the number of aircraft movements will increase to over 280,000 per annum. With maximum use of the existing runway system we can only support demand up to approximately 2009. To accommodate demand beyond that point, additional runway capacity must be provided. The time to deliver a new runway, based on experience elsewhere in Europe, can be measured in years so it is important that we start the process now.
A comparison is occasionally made between Gatwick and Dublin airports in terms of the numbers of passengers who use Gatwick - more than 31 million passengers on 235,000 aircraft movements. The inference is incorrectly drawn that a similar number of passengers could be handled on the existing runway system at Dublin. Gatwick has a very different aircraft fleet mix, with a high proportion of wide-body aircraft. The average number of passengers per aircraft at Gatwick is about 129 compared to 83 for Dublin. Our forecasts predict that the average number of passengers carried through Dublin will rise to 104 by 2009 so a comparison with Gatwick is fundamentally flawed.
The development of a parallel runway raises environmental, societal and communal issues, which we are keen to address to ensure the sustainable development of the airport. Modern aircraft technology has brought a significant reduction in the amount of noise generated, both on take-off and landing. A modern aircraft generates only 20% of the noise generated by a typical 1970s aircraft. The majority of older aircraft that currently operate at Dublin are expected to be phased out within the next three or four years, that is, before the earliest completion date of the new runway.
When the southern runway was constructed in 1989, a residential sound insulation programme was introduced by Aer Rianta. More than 100 eligible home owners received sound-proofing improvements. It is anticipated that a comprehensive programme of residential sound insulation will be identified and discussed with those people affected, as soon as noise contour information is available, which will be later this year.
In co-operation with the Irish Aviation Authority, which manages the air space around Dublin Airport, and the airlines that operate in and out of the airport, we have identified and are introducing a set of corridors that will ensure that in the vast majority of cases, medium to heavy jet aircraft will not overfly any community in the vicinity of the airport. Working with the Irish Aviation Authority and the airlines, preferential runways have been identified for use at night, which will try to ensure that in the majority of cases no aircraft will unnecessarily overfly a built-up area at night. Many meetings have taken place with members of local communities as part of the environmental impact study's public consultation process and of an ongoing general dialogue, which will of course continue.
Air quality in and around the airport is excellent and the level of pollutants rarely exceeds that which would be experienced routinely in the city centre. All the indications are that the quality of air will continue to be excellent and, in any event, we will monitor it on an ongoing basis. Surface access to the airport, and road traffic congestion on the local road network, have been greatly improved by the recent opening of the M1 extension, which allows northbound traffic to travel straight through without congesting the area around the airport. In addition, there are plans to upgrade the N2 to the west of the airport and to construct a link road from the N2 to the airport area.
The programme in our submission represents an indicative time-line. The construction of the new runway will be subject to the validation of need with reference to the latest traffic forecasts. However, we currently envisage that we will need to open the new runway in 2009.
As far as our customers and service partners are concerned, we have made or are making presentations to the Irish airline chief executives and the chief executive of the IAA and their senior teams. Aer Lingus, as its chief executive has stated in his submission to the committee, recognises the need for additional runway capacity. In our presentation to the Aer Lingus executives, they stated that they will not object to a planning application for the parallel runway and they are continuing a dialogue with us about the precise timing and the cost issues associated with it.
Aer Aran Express and CityJet have expressed full support, with CityJet encouraging us to submit a planning application immediately. The IAA is fully supportive and is continuing a dialogue with us to ensure complete compliance with both Irish and international requirements, which we are happy to provide. Ryanair has proposed an extension to an existing runway. However, our analysis of the options and a comparison between Ryanair's suggestion and the proposed parallel runway has clearly demonstrated that the parallel runway represents the best, most cost effective solution. I will meet Michael O'Leary this afternoon to discuss the issue.
There is a clear need to continue the development of Dublin Airport to meet the local, regional and national demand for air travel. Planning the development of the airport, which is a major strategic asset for Ireland, began in the 1960s and has continued ever since. The importance of providing an infrastructure, such as the parallel runway, to meet the country's needs is critical to the continued growth of Ireland as a vibrant economic entity within Europe.
Thank you, Mr. Hilliard. I call Deputy Naughten.
I welcome Mr. Hilliard to the committee and thank him for his presentation. I understand that approximately 250 acres at Shannon Airport is covered by the red zone. What acreage is covered by the red zone at Dublin Airport? Is it planned to extend it in line with the proposed development of the second runway or is consideration being given to extending it prior to the commencement of the planning for the runway? The zone provides for development restrictions within the vicinity and some would argue that it is a mechanism used by Aer Rianta to sterilise land to enable the company to purchase it.
With regard to the noise and environmental impact of the proposed development, why have only 100 homes been sound-proofed under the scheme run by Aer Rianta? Surely there are many more houses in the vicinity which will be hugely impacted upon in terms of noise from airplanes arriving and departing. How is this issue addressed in other countries? A considerable number of airports are within the vicinity of even more densely populated centres.
Is it not the case that it is possible to increase the frequency of incoming flights if the IAA changed the flight frequency set for the airport? Is it not the case that in many other European Union countries, the frequency between arrivals and departures is much tighter? A relaxation in this area would allow for increased capacity.
Has Mr. Hilliard considered the possibility of developing a new airport in the vicinity of Dublin? The chairman recently made such a suggestion. Will the additional terminal at the airport increase the number of flights and, if so, by how much? Will Mr. Hilliard elaborate on Ryanair's contention that the extension of the existing runway could increase capacity? The regulator has decided to cap the charges at Dublin Airport and it has been suggested that Aer Rianta is seeking greater capital development as a means of increasing the cap on landing charges.
I thank the delegation for its presentation. The current timespan between flights at Dublin Airport averages eight minutes while the standard is five minutes. What is the potential in terms of securing improvements in this area and what increased capacity would it provide for the airport over the next ten to 15 years? Are the proposals for the new runway contingent on the second terminal, or at least pier D, proceeding? If the second terminal is not to be provided will that put an end to the prospect of a new runway? What are the systems for monitoring noise and air pollution? It is odd that Mr.Hilliard did not refer to this in his presentation. What outside agencies have a role in this area and how do they carry it out?
I join with my colleagues in welcoming Mr. Hilliard and Mr. Hepburn. Mr. Hilliard mentioned that Ryanair has made an alternative proposal regarding the extension of another runway. What runway is involved and what is the nature of the proposed extension? He stated that almost 50% of the complaints received in the first five months of 2003 related to engine testing and referred to that as being a necessary part of the operation of a major airport. How necessary is it and what other major airports undertake engine testing to the same extent as Dublin Airport?
Mr. Hilliard is aware of the significant local opposition to the extension of the runway. I refer particularly to a meeting held last November in Portmarnock, at which Mr. Hepburn was present. Have the views of the community expressed at the meeting been taken on board and, if so, has it affected the strategy in dealing with this issue, especially with regard to the involvement of the Department and whether it is aware of the extent of local opposition?
With regard to the environmental and noise impact, in every European airport of any size of which I am aware a scheme is developed based on a noise contour footprint. A calculation is made based on a forecast for several years hence of the amount of noise that will be averaged around the airport and a series of contour lines are drawn around the airport. Many airports select a particular contour line and insulate houses to some extent within it. The schemes vary between different countries and airports. Only a few houses around Dublin Airport are insulated because there is very little residential development around the airport. At Manchester, Birmingham and Heathrow airports, there are housing developments up to the airport fences, with thousands of homes falling within the contours. In Dublin, when that work was done about a decade ago, only 100 or so houses fell into the contour footprint. Therefore Dublin has benefited from good land use planning in the past and that has reduced the number of communities around, and close to, the airport.
I am fully aware that people who live near the airport are concerned about what will happen and the effect on their health, their homes etc., and a dialogue about that is essential. We are committed to that dialogue and to having appropriate amelioration measures in place. We measure noise and the track-keeping of aircraft using a sophisticated computer-based system which is best-in-class. Many other airports have this - not necessarily by this manufacturer, but a similar system. We can pinpoint particular noise events, respond to queries and talk to airlines about their particular flying practices. That work has been going on for some time so that in the development, for instance, of these corridors an effort is being made to keep aircraft from flying over built-up areas. With the techniques that we can use, we will draw on the experience of other airports. Many other airports are in much more difficult environmental positions than are we. We need dialogue to determine exactly what is appropriate and effective for this airport and the community.
As far as the runway is concerned, the current capacity of the runway is assessed by a sophisticated modelling exercise. The IAA uses a minimum of three-mile separation - it was five miles. I once was an air traffic controller and I am aware of the maximum that can be extracted from the runway system - that is not just based on my experience but on that of National Air Traffic Services Limited which was contracted to do seven phases of work here over the past two years. We know the maximum capacity that can be extracted from the runways at Dublin Airport using the very best techniques in air traffic, the provision of fast turn-offs and the various infrastructural measures we can take short of building another runway. We have a programme of work locally, working with air traffic control and the airlines, to gradually increase capacity every year, but there is a finite limit to that capacity and we understand what that is. That is the capacity that, if the forecast goes as we believe it will, we will reach in 2009. Gatwick is often used as a benchmark, but the procedures there evolved over time to meet that demand. The procedures at Dublin will also evolve over time to meet the demand. However, there is a limit to that, and we understand where that limit is, technically and scientifically.
As far as the development of the airport is concerned, it is important to try to develop the airport in a balanced way. There is no point in having a huge terminal when the runways cannot cope, and vice versa - the same may be said of the road infrastructure to the airport. We look upon the airport as a complicated system of places where processes take place and we endeavour to develop the airport on a just-in-time basis. However you come to a point, which we are doing with this parallel runway, where you know that you will reach a finite limit with what you can achieve with the resources you have and therefore a quantum leap in capacity is necessary. You cannot build half a runway, for example, as I am sure the committee will understand.
The Ryanair proposal is to extend the existing short runway, which is called runway 1129. A detailed assessment of that proposal has been done. We know the maximum that can be extracted from the use of that runway with the existing main runway, runway 2810. The trouble with the proposal is, basically, that the centre lines of the two runways meet near Howth and you cannot use them simultaneously for arrivals or departures because the approach path and the take-off path in the other direction cross. Clearly that is certainly not fail-safe. Therefore the proposal to extend runway 1129, which would take it to the same length as the existing runway, has been assessed. Assessments have also been made on whether the extension should take place at one end of it or the other, or a mix of both. However, there is no doubt - I shall see Ryanair this afternoon - that it is much more beneficial to build a parallel runway.
The red zone is an area defined. We have been sent a new set of drawings of reassessed red zone areas and we are in the process of responding to that on a consultative basis. The essence of the red zone is that it exists where the runway exists. It protects or seeks to safeguard development in that area so that on a risk assessment basis there is no development in those areas. Therefore the red zones are not Aer Rianta's, they are the runway's. I think they are a planning tool rather than a device invented by——
Do they not also take in the flight path?
They do, they extend out from the runway. At present they extend out in a sort of trapezoid shape, but the proposal is for an inverted triangle, a longer slimmer triangle. This proposal has been developed by the planning authorities, and, I believe, the Department of Transport, based on the risk assessment profile of incidents at airports around the world. Therefore the shape of them may well change in the not too distant future, but the principle of them - they are established at all the major airports in the UK - is to try to control development within those critical areas.
In regard to engine testing, while many jet engines can literally be delivered in a box and put on the aircraft ready for flight, there are some maintenance procedures which require engine testing as a safety measure before the aircraft is put into service. Therefore there is an amount of engine testing at every airport because there is an amount of maintenance which goes on at every airport of whatever size. We are endeavouring to change the engine testing requirement, but again there is a finite limit below which it is not feasible to go. The other factor, of course, is that the older noisier aircraft tend not only to need more engine runs but also to make more noise. For instance, we rarely receive a complaint about engine runs on the BAe 146, which is a much quieter aircraft. Most airports conduct engine testing. I think I have covered the points raised.
Will Mr. Hilliard be more specific about the monitoring of noise and air pollution?
All aircraft are certified for noise purposes to an international standard and there are measuring points in the countryside at specific distances from the runway in the flight path area. These measuring points are internationally prescribed.
We are placing noise monitors - some are in place and some are the subject of planning applications to put the microphone on the site. They will go into the environs of the airport and they continuously monitor the noise. They are relayed back, over a telephone line, to a computer. The radar information comes from the IAA's radar and is superimposed across a mapping system.
The result is a computer presentation of a line drawn across a map which has the aircraft's height, speed and noise at these particular points. We can identify particular aircraft - all the aircraft are individually identified. We keep those records and therefore we can look back historically. We can run analysis on them to find out which aircraft are the noisiest, etc.
That system has been instrumental in helping us introduce these corridors. When anybody flies outside the corridor, we can talk to the airline concerned about it. That is a system that is in use at most airports around the world.
The air quality is sampled. The equipment is, I think, to World Health Organisation standards and we sample in accordance with environmental mechanisms which are recommended by the WHO.
Is all that done by Aer Rianta? Is there an outside agency involved?
It is done by Aer Rianta. Fingal County Council monitors the air quality. I have no difficulty with an independent assessment of the equipment we use, nor of the data and its veracity. It is important people have confidence in the information we supply, and if that means we must submit ourselves to an external audit of it or whatever, I would be perfectly happy for that to happen. It is important that we monitor it for our use as well as for distribution to relevant people in the community.
I join my colleagues in welcoming Mr. Hilliard and Mr. Hepburn, and compliment the former on his concise and easy-to-follow presentation. I presume the new runway is being built to accommodate the new so-called super-jumbo jets, the new long-range and heavier aircraft which have been designed and some of which are in construction.
Mr. Hilliard referred in his presentation to the excellent long-range planning in Dublin Airport. Would he not accept it is difficult to reconcile that with the fact that the airport is chronically running beyond its capacity and that many of the long-term car parks are many miles from the airport, which means it takes a long time to get to the terminal from them which seriously discommodes passengers?
I understand that when representatives of Dublin Airport met the people from Portmarnock at a public meeting more than a year ago, a specific undertaking was given to provide the people, organisers and relevant groups living in the red zone flight corridor with the appropriate and relevant information and data on the airport's flight monitoring. My understanding is that this information has not been provided to date - perhaps it has not been fully collated. If those who run the airport are trying to build up credibility with the people in the red zone, do they not accept that the fact that this undertaking has not been fulfilled is damaging to their case?
I apologise for being late because I had an appointment at 8.15 this morning. This is as quick as I could get here.
There is only one access route - one lane - to the north inner city of Dublin.
There is a dilemma in that, on the one hand, Aer Rianta has provided an economic benefit to the north Dublin area over the years and will continue to do so into the future and, on the other, a substantial number of residents, not only from Portmarnock but also from Swords and other areas, are examining the wider picture in terms of the environment, noise, traffic congestion and the perception of acres of car parking in the future in Fingal. My clear understanding is that the people opposed to the development sought an independent assessment of the economic benefits or feasibility of a second airport to cover for or link in with Dublin Airport to try to meet the demands of the greater Dublin area and perhaps the midlands. That could be the way forward with new ring roads and so on.
When Aer Rianta previously appeared before the committee, I put a question to Mr. Hanlon and he said he had no objection in principle to such an assessment. However, as the airport is proceeding with the environmental impact statement and has sought planning permission, this assessment of another airport appears to have been forgotten. No one appears willing to see how that independent assessment could be achieved before the development goes too far. Have the witnesses information on how, or can they outline how, best that assessment could be achieved? It could be valuable. What do they say to some of the main players involved in Dublin Airport, such as carriers like Aer Lingus and Ryanair and perhaps the regulator, who have stated on different occasions that they do not see a need for this second parallel runway? I would like the witnesses' comments on that.
The super-jumbos, as the Deputy referred to them, are built for different markets, such as Asia, the Pacific Rim and major hub airports like Charles de Gaulle, Heathrow, Frankfurt and so on. As there are some technical issues with the size of the aircraft, we will design the new runway and taxiways to accommodate them in terms of the separation distances between the runway and taxiway, for example, but we will not build the runway or the taxiway to the huge widths required to handle these aircraft.
As far as we can see, the market does not exist for such aircraft to fly into Dublin Airport. I do not believe that will place a constraint on the economic growth of the area or the island. We are doing what is prudent, namely, planning ahead but not going the full distance of building everything to accommodate these aircraft. There are ways of dealing with very large aircraft in the airport - a large Airbus was in the airport for maintenance recently. There are operational procedures for dealing with such aircraft on a one-off basis.
There are other issues with these giant jumbos. Huge numbers of passengers are carried which means they board on both decks. There is therefore the infrastructural cost of providing the different air bridge links from the terminal. Their sheer scale is not something that is in our planning at present. Major airports such as Frankfurt and Heathrow are planning for a few of these aircraft, but they are not in our plans.
I do not agree that the airport is chronically affected by demand. There are a number of constraints on our ability to control demand in that Dublin Airport is the only airport of its size in Europe that does not have slot control. We have a voluntary system which works to a point but, inevitably, when it gets busy, the slot system breaks down. We do not have the control we would like and are on record with the Commission for Aviation Regulation as requesting full co-ordination which would give us more control over air traffic into the airport.
We have more car parking spaces per million passengers, or however one wishes to express it, than many airports. However, we do not have a rail link. I have no desire to be the largest car park operator in Ireland. I would rather there was a range and selection of ways of getting to the airport that include a rail link of whatever description, be it light or heavy. I am open-minded about that.
If we make promises to the community, we must honour them. If we have not done what we said we would do, inevitably that damages us. I will examine what was said and supply what information I can. We do not have anything to hide.
I wish to clarify the term "red zone". The red zone is a small area close to the airport. Portmarnock is not in a red zone. It is close to flight paths and so on. I am not attempting to deny that the Portmarnock community has an issue with us over the development of the runway. It is just that it is not an influence in the red zone area.
As regards an alternative airport, Aer Rianta has a remit to run Dublin, Shannon and Cork airports, among other things. This goes back to Deputy Shortall's point. If we commission an independent report on that, the question would be, how independent could that report be if it is commissioned and paid for by Aer Rianta. Our position should be that we are trying to develop the airport, as is our remit - perhaps there are alternatives or someone in authority wishes to look at something else or say there is a limit to what we can do. That is neither Aer Rianta's nor my decision.
I am reluctant to put someone on the spot. It is not our role to make an independent assessment of other options. I am not trying to be unhelpful, I am trying to be practical and honest in that we can only legitimately assess the situation from our perspective as the owners and operators of Dublin Airport.
Did Mr. O'Hanlon say they would have no objections to this?
I am sure he did, and neither would I, but that does not put us in the way of doing the work.
As a Deputy for the area, I am trying to bring balance to this. We must bring important people like Mr. Hilliard and the people of the area together. How do we achieve that and get a report we can all examine?
I am not sure. I am prepared to explore how this can be done. For instance, in making the economic assessment on the parallel runway, we commissioned a competent body to do so. This is probably more a matter of who will be the generator of that report. As the chairman said, we would have no objections to that but we do not feel we should be the owners of the process.
Regarding the users, I am not sure if the Deputy heard my opening remarks but the chief executive of Aer Lingus is on record in this committee as saying he recognises there is a need for another runway. This issue is one of timing. I have subsequently been to see him and his senior executives to make a presentation about this runway. Their position is that they recognise the need for it, they will not object to a planning application for it and they want to continue a dialogue with us on timing and fleet mix - the various demands they drive - as they too are in a state of change. Their fleet plans are also moving forward. Aer Arann Express and CityJet have supported us, and CityJet asked why we were not getting on with the planning application immediately. Ryanair suggested an alternative, lengthening one of the short runways - I will see Michael O'Leary about that this afternoon.
I wish to ask a brief supplementary question as I must leave. Will the flying public be a little surprised to hear we are building a new state-of-the-art runway for the capital city's airport which cannot accommodate the next generation of airplanes? I am not an expert in this area and I bow to the delegation's expertise, but as a lay person I believe that sounds very strange in terms of the projected growth in air travel in the next 50 years. I find it hard to accept that the capital city of a modern European country would not have the capacity for long-haul flights, which is projected for future air travel. It sounds very unusual.
I will clarify that. We will build the parallel runway and the associated infrastructure and the taxiways so those aircraft can be accommodated when the demand arises. Put simply, the runways for these planes are much wider than an ordinary runway. We will make sure the land is available.
An analogy would be the new M1, which is now open. with a very wide central reservation, presumably so that one day a third lane can go in. That is the kind of thinking involved here. We do not want to spend a lot of money putting a third lane in as the demand is not there but it will be possible to do so in the future. The runway is driven by the forecast of traffic, and our forecast does not show that kind of aircraft coming in because it has not featured in the talks we have had with the airlines on their forecasts.
The ability will be there.
Yes, the ability to handle it will be there.
Does that mean Dublin will never become a hub airport for continental Europe or transatlantic flights?
No, it does not. The very large aircraft are not necessary to hub through.
The problem is that if the cost of flying those airplanes drops significantly in comparison with smaller craft like the 747, will the economic need to cater for them not arise quickly?
Yes, but as I said to Deputy Power, as we are safeguarding the space to handle those, if it becomes a realistic proposition clearly we would want to supply the capacity to meet that demand.
Mr. Hilliard is saying that provision is made in the plans to handle them if needs be but that the second runway, if provided, will be sufficient to take those craft and to get them to a terminal.
I am saying that if one or two comes in - a very large airbus was in recently for maintenance - there are operational procedures to deal with that on our existing concrete. The runway will have sufficient space alongside it to be widened to take these on a daily or hourly basis if the need arises. We are genuinely trying to balance the potential need in the future with the cost of over-providing in the short-term.
What is the extra cost?
I do not know. The runway is about one third as wide again so that is adding a significant——
What is the projected cost of the second runway?
The projected cost is approximately €130 million.
Mr. Hilliard is talking about pushing the cost from €130 million to €170 million.
Does it not make more sense to do that now and to have the facility for the future rather than going for the add-on? Those add-ons have always been a disaster in projects like this.
I do not think so because at the end of the day, to build the runway we must convince our users, the airlines, that the cost is justifiable. That means providing facilities to meet the foreseeable reasonable demand. It would be wrong to build a massive runway now in the hope that those large aircraft would come along. We should take steps. Again, my analogy with the motor——
We are into the old problem again, involving another planning application, another environmental impact study and so on at a later stage. Why not provide all the facilities now rather than making two major contracts out of this? The cost of doing this down the line will fall on the consumer, the user of Dublin Airport. Is it not better to do that now as one project rather than having to do it in 2010, a year after completion?
I understand the point being made, but we must be guided by the forecast of reasonable, foreseeable growth. I am happy to look at the cost benefit of doing so now.
I have two brief questions. Regarding the red zone, from what we are told if the new runway goes ahead there will have to be an expansion of the red zone. What is the acreage under the red zone? Are there interim plans to increase it? If usage of the existing runway is maximised, and there are negotiations with the Irish Aviation Authority to introduce standards such as those in place in other international airports, by what level can the capacity be increased to take flights at Dublin Airport?
Following from Deputy Ryan's comments, I appreciate it may be regarded as being beyond the brief of members of the delegation to assess the case or otherwise for a second airport in Dublin. Clearly a political decision must be made by the Minister but, obviously, the thinking in that regard could be indicated to him. Apart from residents' concerns, is there not a case for many different operational reasons to, at least, examine the possibility of another airport somewhere west of Dublin, serving all the catchment of west Dublin, south Dublin and the midlands? Could Mr. Hilliard not indicate to the Minister the interest in examining that case?
We will shortly hear from UPROAR about its concerns, of which Mr. Hilliard is well aware, which are genuine. What is Aer Rianta prepared to do to allay these concerns and what specific measures is it prepared to put in place to address these concerns?
I hope Deputies Shortall and Séan Ryan have cleared with their leader that they want to construct an airport in Dublin west.
West of Dublin.
In south Roscommon.
I am not aware of the acreage under the current red zone but I will supply that information to the committee afterwards. As far as I am aware, the county development plan which contains the parallel runway also contains the red zones within them. These red zones have been in the county development plan for a number of years.
On the air traffic control ability to increase capacity, there is a programme to do this. The maximum that can be extracted from that runway system is known and over the next few years we will be able to increase that slightly. However, we will run out of capacity, even with complete best practice, best in class procedures etc. around 2009 on the current runway system. Air traffic procedures here must be fundamentally safe and expeditious. I am perfectly happy that there is extreme competence in that regard.
I have no doubt we would contribute to any study and take a position on other airports etc. in the area. However, it would be almost impossible to conceive that the airport could be identified and the various environmental and community issues overcome in anything like the time this could be achieved by building a parallel runway at Dublin Airport.
He is concerned about——
There are very few places in Europe that have built new airports. Munich started its second airport sometime in the 1970s and it finally came on stream approximately ten or 15 years later. It had a site identified previously. The same applies to Oslo. The new airport for Oslo is approximately 100 kilometres outside the city and linked by a high speed train and so on. We would contribute to this concept but I do not think it is our role to instigate that study.
On amelioration, we are currently introducing environmental flight corridors. They have been in use for some while and if anyone travels outside the corridor we go through a process to try to address that issue.
Aircraft are getting quieter as older aircraft are being withdrawn and more modern aircraft are coming on line. My main ambition is to have meaningful dialogue with people who feel strongly and passionately about the development of the airport, about what can sensibly and reasonably be achieved so that Ireland gets the airport it needs in future and the needs of the people who will be affected by that are taken into account. That balance must be struck if the whole process is to move forward in a sensible way.
On behalf of the committee, I thank the delegation for their informative presentation.
I welcome representatives of UPROAR, Mr. Brian Byrne, Ms TeresaKavanagh and Ms Angela Lawton. I draw the witnesses' attention to the fact that while members of the committee have absolute privilege the same privilege does not apply to witnesses appearing before the committee. I also remind members of the long-standing parliamentary practice that members should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable. I ask Mr. Byrne to make his presentation.
Mr. Brian Byrne
Is cúis áthais dúinn a bheith anseo ar an ócáid speisialta seo. I represent the Portmarnock community association. UPROAR is one of our four sub-committees which deal with issues of concern to the community. Initially UPROAR was set up to deal with quality of life issues concerning Dublin Airport and our community. These arise from noise emissions, pollution, flooding, congestion and similar matters. In latter times we have been concerned particularly with the proposed construction of a new runway. That new runway would bring traffic directly over Portmarnock and not to the sides of the community, as the existing system is supposed to do.
I am sure most members of the community know Portmarnock. We are situated on the coast and we have a population of approximately 8,000. According to the latest census figures Portmarnock has the highest percentage of family homes of any community. It is a family residential area with a famous beach and golf courses. Fingal County Council's objectives for our area concentrate on its social, recreational, tourism and environmental character. Any concept of a new runway is at variance with such objectives.
We are situated within two minutes flying time of Dublin Airport. Already we experience much noise from overflying aircraft. The flight path to the airport is supposed to bring traffic below and not across Portmarnock. However, as public representatives are aware, for many years the airport has been deviating from that and aircraft have been taking short-cuts across our community. Full power engine run-ups are also a constant source of nuisance. While Aer Rianta says these are done at other airports, they are normally done in acoustic hangars and not in open space as Aer Rianta is currently doing. This is partly because Aer Rianta is its own regulator. It is not covered by the environmental legislation and is a law unto itself. There has been mention of insulation of the new runway. However, there is no method of insulating gardens, schools or recreational areas. Insulation must be confined to parts of houses. Our community is more than just houses.
The current throughput of traffic at Dublin Airport is 15.1 million. What did not emerge in the previous presentation is that Aer Rianta has three runways at Dublin Airport, not one. It is now proposed to construct a fourth runway. It is our belief that a fourth runway would make the whole operation unsustainable. It would be a nightmare, not just for Portmarnock but for all the communities surrounding the airport and for people who live in Fingal and even in the city. I note that some members had difficulty in being here on time because of traffic congestion. The growth of Dublin Airport is the major contributor to traffic congestion in Dublin city.
We believe there is sufficient capacity within the operation of Dublin Airport to cater for growth for the next ten or 15 years and that Aer Rianta's proposals arise from an indecent rush to privatisation rather than necessity. Ryanair is opposed to this runway development. I am sure it will also be opposed this afternoon so that the meeting that is taking place will be irrelevant in that regard. Aer Lingus may have been influenced to say it is not opposed to the new runway at some stage in the future but how can anyone be opposed to a development in the distant future? None of us knows what may happen in 50 years time.
There is sufficient capacity in the existing airport structure. I worked in Aer Rianta for 30 years and I am well aware of the capacity that exists there. Major capacity is also available at the regional airports. Use of that capacity would be better in the national interest than what is being proposed selfishly and commercially by Aer Rianta. I do not object to decisions being made on a commercial basis but to squander taxpayers' money when better solutions are available is not right.
The transport industry is subsidised in many ways. Fuel is exempt from taxes and tickets are exempt from VAT. A recent report in the UK estimated that the subsidy of the aviation industry in the UK amounted to £9.2 billion per year. Ireland is not the same size as the UK but even if we are only one tenth its size - we are bigger - we are subsidising our aviation industry by £1 billion per year, at a time when we cannot afford nurses for Crumlin hospital. Taxpayers are subsidising the gross profits of shareholders in certain airlines because we are not taxing the industry. It has a privileged status. Tickets for PSO seats on flights from regional airports are subsidised in the name of decentralisation. This subsidy is as much as €560 per seat on flights from Knock to Dublin.
Mr. Byrne should give us real facts.
I am not critical of the subsidy but I believe the money could be better spent on improving the infrastructure in those areas and on the rail system. Aer Rianta is glad to have any aircraft flying into Dublin Airport and uses those subsidised operations as an argument for the new runway. This is not sustainable in the long run.
Aer Rianta's website states that it proposes a 50 million passenger site at Dublin Airport. It has a 15 million passenger capacity at the moment. We know the congestion and poor services which exist at Dublin Airport and to plan to treble these numbers is irresponsible. It would require at least 50,000 car parking spaces covering most of Fingal. Any rail or road capacity would be swallowed up by the growing capacity of Dublin Airport, and that would be wrong.
The proposed expansion of Dublin Airport is the single biggest threat to a range of Government policies, including the spatial strategy, rural development and decentralisation. While towns outside Dublin are developed, people will be forced to come back to Dublin because the airport has been allowed to grow uncontrolled in a way that prevents the normal expansion of other airports. If the growth of Dublin Airport is allowed to continue, its critical mass will vacuum up any potential growth in other centres. This is why Manchester Airport has a throughput of 20 million passengers while Liverpool Airport has a throughput of three million, even though they are 30 miles apart. A large critical mass swallows up all around it and a big tree will eventually kill off the smaller trees. That is what will happen in an airport context. Similar things are happening in the UK and I have quoted three examples from recent surveys showing how the UK sees the growth in London airports producing economic inequalities in the UK regions.
Health issues are of concern to us also. Nobody says that one aircraft will cause damage but an unsustainable level of them will produce pollution and noise. A range of studies has shown that one is 80% more likely to have higher blood pressure if one lives under a flight path. I already quoted a study from Munich where the airport closed because people wanted to move it out of the city where it was causing problems. A study of schools in the area after the airport had closed found the performance of children in those schools had improved dramatically. Conversely, the performance of children in schools adjacent to the new airport disimproved. Without being extreme about it, much scientific evidence shows how a certain level of aircraft interference is acceptable but when it becomes unsustainable it has a negative impact on communities.
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled on the right of people to to call for a night curfew. Dublin Airport is one of the few airports in Europe that does not have a night curfew and planes can land at any time of night. People going on holidays often leave on a 3 a.m. flight which would overfly housing estates and, because of the stillness of the night, the noise would sound even louder than normal.
Having said why we do not want a new runway as briefly as I can, we believe the national interest must be met in some way. There are three existing runways at Dublin Airport and it is my professional and personal view that the capacity of the airport is of the order of 30 million passengers. There is ample room for that and for normal growth to take place. What is happening at the moment is more a result of the style of management of a particular person in the airport or of some privatisation issues to which I am not privy.
We know that Ryanair opposed the new runway and that Aer Lingus does not see it as a requirement for many years to come. We know the aviation regulator said it was not necessary and he would not put any money into the proposal. However, in spite of that, the Aer Rianta chairman has, in his own inimitable fashion, pursued the matter and said it will go ahead.
We believe there are two solutions. It is not for us to tell the Government how it should solve the issue of the growth of aviation but demand must be met in some way. One solution would be the creation of a second airport within the Dublin region. Attempts have been made over the years to look at Baldonnel and Gormanston. However, Baldonnel would not be suitable from the point of view of airport communities. That was proposed but, as the Minister advised us recently, will not go ahead. With the pushing out of Dublin it would be ideal to have a new airport. That would more than satisfy any future aviation requirements in the country and would give balanced planning. We would end up with two airports catering for 20 million people instead of one with all the dreadful problems that an airport catering for 40 million would create.
A solution could also be provided by the existing regional airports. One could only meet that that by capping Dublin Airport. If Dublin Airport is allowed to grow uncontrolled, the regional airports will suffocate and eventually die. They are unsustainable as long as Dublin can eat up everything, which it will do because all resources are being pushed into it. What happens is taxpayers end up subsidising UK stag parties here and people's many foreign holidays each year. We think that is not right.
I have explained why we are against the runway. We are unselfish. Eight other communities around Dublin Airport have now joined with Portmarnock to form an alliance of communities, some of which are closer to the airport than we are. One is 800 metres from the proposed new runway, which is appalling. Currently there are no planning restrictions on housing close to the airport and we believe there will be damage to health. Our main issue is the quality of life. We are a mature community. People come to Portmarnock for the beach and the golf course attracts people from all over the world. If it is a fine day they are out in their thousands. However, the intention is to put a smelly gasoline highway over their heads and to ruin that. That would be unforgivable.
The issue requires a long-term vision and a big call. It is not an easy call. At the moment we havead hocery where when one part is full another bit is added, either too late or eventually. That is not right. Bits of railway systems and roads are being added. We need the big picture and someone who will make the big call. We are trying and hoping the committee will achieve that.
I would like to comment about some things Aer Rianta did or did not include in its presentation but perhaps I will leave it for a moment. I apologise if I have already gone on too long.
The public service obligation is vital to the regions both in regard to providing services and supporting business which helps to try and bring the balanced regional development Mr. Byrne is talking about. If the funds or savings from it were invested in motorways they would build less than a few miles of motorway. It is vital to the development of the regions.
The proposal for the second or new runway at Dublin Airport has been on the development plans since the 1970s when Mr. Byrne was a member of the company and many residents of Portmarnock would have moved into the area subsequent to the initial drawing up of these proposals. Surely many of them would have been aware of them. Perhaps Mr. Byrne will comment on that.
What is the maximum number of passengers who could utilise Dublin Airport as it is now under current Irish aviation rules? On the leaflet distributed to us there is a mention of greater levels of flooding. Could Mr. Byrne elaborate on what exactly is meant by this?
I welcome the delegation and thank it for its presentation. What is the experience with the current flight paths at Dublin Airport? Are flights adversely affecting the quality of life in Portmarnock and what is the effect from the point of view of noise and air quality? Has there been any estimate of the numbers of residents who will be affected by the proposed new runway? How many communities will be involved?
What sort of a relationship has UPROAR had with Aer Rianta in recent times? Has Aer Rianta been prepared to meet the group on a regular basis and does the group feel that it has gone any way towards addressing its concerns? Is there anything this committee could do to improve relations and put in place some structure whereby what is happening could be monitored? UPROAR had a meeting recently with the Minister for Transport. Was there any outcome to that meeting? Did the group request him to examine the case for a second airport in the Dublin region? Earlier we heard that Aer Rianta does not see that as being its responsibility. However, the Minister would have a role to play. Did the group put the request to him and, if so, what was his response?
I welcome the deputation. Mr. Byrne stated that he was giving a professional view. What was his profession?
I worked in Aer Rianta for 30 years.
In what capacity?
In various capacities, but for most of the time in personnel, HR and industrial relations. I then became deputy general manager of Dublin Airport. Penultimately I was the manager of Dublin Airport from 1989 to 1996. I then became assistant chief executive from 1996 to 1998, when I resigned.
The reason I asked is I thought you may have held a professional qualification in aeronautics.
I do. I have 30 years experience.
Experience, but not a professional qualification. You stated that it was a professional position. You state that the capacity in Dublin Airport is sufficient for the next ten to 15 years, yet Aer Rianta has told the committee that the capacity will run out by 2009 and that a second runway is needed. Why is there such discrepancy between your figures and those of Aer Rianta?
Has any assessment been made of the loss to the economy of the non-development of Dublin Airport? That is a factor that must be taken into consideration in this examination. You suggest that regional airports are the answer to the problems. I live within 40 miles of a regional airport in Sligo but if I want to fly anywhere I must fly to Dublin for connecting flights. My other alternative is to go to Belfast and that is a loss to the economy of the State and to Aer Rianta.
The fact sheet provided details of the drop in property values. Can anyone tell me of any property in Portmarnock or in that area of north County Dublin that has been sold in recent times for less than it would have achieved in the past five years?
A map has been provided with the submission showing the flight paths and corridors. Every time I fly into Dublin I fly that red corridor. It will not change the flight paths. I know that the flight path into Dublin Airport is over Kinsealy.
The Deputy can wave on the way.
Yes. We know where it is and some of us know better than others. The bottom line is that the flight patterns will not be changed that much by the addition of a second runway.
I will ask my colleagues to speak because I do not wish to hog the conversation and it is not a personal crusade. Deputy Naughten should be aware that houses are being built at present in Portmarnock. I visited the site last week and I asked the salesman if a new runway was planned for the area. He answered that there was no new runway in this area. I asked if there were any insulation measures being taken because of a proposed new runway and he answered that there were none. There is no awareness in the area of plans for a new runway. Fingal County Council has not deemed it necessary to tell anybody. There is some awareness and obviously I am aware of it but at other stages there is no awareness.
The Deputy asked about the maximum number of people who would use Dublin Airport. It seems that Aer Rianta is hell bent on building a second runway which would add substantially to its value. I have argued that it is not necessary. Mr. Hilliard suggested that it was not at maximum capacity. Measures such as rapid exit taxi ways and improvement in air traffic control procedures could all have an influence.
Gatwick Airport has one runway and operates over 30 million movements. Dublin Airport has three runways. Mr. Hilliard gave the example of the traffic for two existing runways which converge over Howth. If one converges at one end, then it is necessary to diverge at the other end. I do not believe it was correct to argue in that context. Two runways can provide for take-offs on one runway and approaches on the second runway and this would more than adequately address the issues.
With regard to flooding, our land lies to the east of the airport. As the natural soakage is used up, fields that used to provide drainage are now carparks or tarmacadamed taxi ways and aprons. This means there is a run-off of water and it ends up on the roads in the gullies and drains and it floods into areas around our community and into many other communities.
A question was asked about the estimated number of people affected by the new runway. Eight communities have joined with Portmarnock so there are nine communities. Other communities are pursuing their own issues. There could be a dozen communities directly affected and many indirectly affected by the consequences of having an enormous mass that prevents normal traffic around that area.
Our relationship with Aer Rianta leaves much to be desired. They promised over a year ago to provide certain information from their all-singing, all-dancing monitoring system. Some of the Deputies representing our area will have seen the correspondence which describes what has not been addressed or delivered.
The Minister said that this issue had never been raised with him. Dublin Airport can expand because the ground is there. A bigger hole can be built. However, the question of whether one should do that has not been addressed and that is the strategic issue in our view.
I am in favour of rural development. I gave examples of how Aer Rianta might use it for their own benefit and not for the benefit of the people in the rural communities. If the regional airports can be developed, they would be capable of handling in due course some international flights. If Dublin Airport continues to draw up all the growth, then there will never be international traffic out of Galway, Knock, Sligo or Waterford, which is struggling to get one flight. I wonder why there are not a dozen flights.
For a simple reason. The volume of people is not available to use and sustain the airport. The problem is that over one third of the population of the State now resides in the greater Dublin area. In my opinion, that is the reason Dublin Airport will be forced to expand.
It seems that in the future, two thirds of the population will be living in Dublin, unless somebody decides otherwise. There is much wishful thinking and nostalgia about how the provincial airports can grow. They cannot grow if Dublin Airport is allowed to absorb all the future growth. It must be restricted in the same way as the London airports will be restricted so that Manchester and other airports can grow. It is a regional strategy. It is not my place to lecture the members of the committee because they know more about it than I do. From the airport experience, I know that the critical mass will kill off everything else unless something is done.
Ms Teresa Kavanagh
I wish to address Deputy Ellis's question about the change of flight path. An interesting study has been published recently called the public safety zone study, which was undertaken by ERM consultants for the Department of Transport. This study creates what it terms an inner danger zone and an outer danger zone. The existing flight path to which Deputy Ellis referred is there. This new runway will create another flight path and what is called the outer danger zone. The study also terms it a crash area where no new schools, hospitals, hotels with over 100 bedrooms, nursing homes, will be permitted, nor any gathering of more than 225 persons. Housing density is to be 60 houses per two hectares. This is where I live and they are creating a crash zone over my house. Density of housing should be 60 houses per two hectares. This is where we live. They are creating a crash zone over my house. I do not want it and my neighbours do not want it. It is a really serious issue. It involves environmental vandalism and it will be a monument to bad planning. They could buy up the community and move us all out as they have done for Schiphol Airport and in other countries, but we do not want to go. This is our home and our neighbourhood. We have a lovely scenic area in north County Dublin. We have lovely hotels to which tourists come and lovely golf courses. A football match attracting 250 spectators cannot be held in the area. They are allowing existing buildings to stay in place, but no new school, no hospital, no nursing home will be——
Is this in the red area?
This study is only new. It is a draft document from ERM. It was flagged in the paper yesterday and we picked it up. I have the document here. It is a report dated June 2000.
What is the width of the corridor?
The corridor tapers to a point out over the Irish Sea. There is a lozenge effect and not, as Bob Hilliard said, a triangle. There is a lozenge effect with the biggest part of the lozenge over the airport and the area adjacent to it, tapering off to——
What is its width over Portmarnock?
Over Portmarnock? I am not a mathematician. It covers most of Portmarnock. It covers the community school.
I asked a straight question. Ms Kavanagh has the lines in front of her. What is the width of the area over Portmarnock?
With due respect, I do not think that is fair.
Let me try and work it out. Its widest point is where the community school in Portmarnock is - where our children are educated.
It is wider closer to the airport.
The school has 1,500 children.
It is tapering out towards the sea.
I understand that.
When it gets to Portmarnock——
For everyone's information, this report on public safety zones will be available onwww.erm.com
Let us be clear. That is dealing only with the likelihood of crashes. It says that within these areas——
——one cannot build.
——one should not build close to the airport or in areas outside that covering Portmarnock - the outer zone area. There should not be schools or churches.
It is challenging. There is no way that any sane person could permit this runway to go ahead in the light of the findings of the ERM report. It is shocking and challenging. I was shocked to the core when I read it. If I want to have a wedding for my daughter and put a marquee in the public space at the end of the road, I had better make sure I only ask 200 people. Six hundred people attended the meeting last November to which Deputy Glennon referred. That would now be a danger. There is a higher chance of being involved in a crash; it is a mathematical equation they work out. I can go to the page where they specifically say——
We do not have copies of the report.
We can get somebody to copy it.
I am sure we will get it.
We can do it now if you wish.
You might send us the relevant sections.
I have done that. I copied it and gave it to the secretary this morning.
It says that we are in the outer PSZ. In the inner PSZ, public safety zone, it says there should be no further development and existing developments may remain. In the outer PSZ it says the following may remain: existing developments less than or equal to 60 persons per half hectare; holiday accommodation less than or equal to 100 beds; retail/leisure facilities less than or equal to 85 persons per half hectare and working premises less than or equal to 110 persons per half hectare. In the outer PSZ it says there should be no further development of institutional accommodation or sports stadia and limited use areas should contain less than or equal to 220 persons per half hectare. It defines limited use as use not exceeding approximately a maximum of 12 hours in one week - this is for sports facilities. We have a leisure centre that will be on rationed hours. During Sunday markets, car boot sales, day fairs, using the SRI, it says no more than 220 persons should be exposed in the crash area. That is what they are calling our neighbourhood - a crash area.
We are expected to take that when the airport has existing capacity. It has three runways. There is a gross under-utilisation of plant at Dublin Airport. On its website, Aer Rianta claims there is capacity. By 2020 it will need capacity to handle 30 million passengers per annum. If maximised and properly developed, existing runway capacity will allow it to accommodate up to 30 million. Airlines have said this. It is not my private opinion. This is shocking.
I would like to understand the status of this report. It is a draft report that was published recently. Who commissioned it?
The Department of Transport.
As it was also given to Aer Rianta, I would have thought its representatives would have mentioned it this morning.
They mentioned it, but they minimised the seriousness of it. The impact of this report is colossal. The members have not been adequately informed on this huge issue.
It only came out in recent days.
It only came out the other day. We only picked it up yesterday.
It should have come to us as well.
It went to the Department of Transport and the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
This act of environmental vandalism is a shocking indictment of the way the company is treating a community that was there prior to this runway. If we are not allowed build new schools or new hospitals, what about other side of the coin? How can anybody even contemplate attempting to put this over an existing community?
That community is already in the flight path.
We have a flight path to the south of Portmarnock, not over the central mass of Portmarnock. Infringements do occur, but we have been coping with them. Through our efforts flight monitoring is now in place. It was not in place for ten years of the operation of that runway.
Mr. Byrne stated that the airport's capacity should be limited to 30 million passengers and one possibility would be to have another airport elsewhere. How would the traffic get to another airport and does that not defeat his argument? Will the traffic not fly over Dublin anyhow? Over what part of Dublin should the flight path for that airport be? Is there any scientific analysis showing that noise from aircraft seriously affects health?
I will focus on the strategic decisions that have to be taken. Politicians, Aer Rianta, the Minister and the public should try to reach a consensus on the way forward if possible. I refer to the meetings UPROAR had with the Minister and Mr. Willie Soffe. Has the need for an assessment of the benefits or otherwise of a second airport for Dublin been acknowledged? From either of those meetings, did the delegation get any sense of how this could be achieved? UPROAR's submission refers to a second airport. How does its representatives feel this could be achieved? What role might politicians or members of this committee play in trying to influence that?
I will take the last question first. We met the county manager and the Minister. As I said the Minister was not aware of this issue. The extent of the thinking had been whether we should have a second terminal, pier D, pier E or pier C. This raised the debate, which is why we are really here today. We know this is not an instant call. This is a far-reaching decision that has to be taken. The Minister agreed to consider it and we wait to hear from him.
Mr. Soffe has the dilemma of how big he wants Dublin Airport to become. Do we want it to become an airport capable of handling 100 million passengers per annum? Someone needs to outline the long-term vision of what we want to create for the country. We have a selfish interest. What is created in the short-term will cause huge damage to many communities. This should not happen. We have an opportunity to take a broad perspective by constructing a second airport or somehow kick-starting further development at regional airports by allowing them to pick up the additional business. Instead of having 60 flights a day from Dublin Airport to five airports in London, some future flights on these routes should go to Galway, Shannon, Waterford and Cork airports. This would benefit all concerned. It is fundamentally flawed to bring people dispersed around the country back into a congested system in Dublin for departure flights.
The studies in health, to which Senator Morrissey referred, are mentioned in the document. We include some examples of many studies which have highlighted the health issue. When a certain point is reached in terms of airport passenger numbers - it is higher than three million - fume and noise levels begin to impact on health.
On the question of a new airport, if one were built near Carlow, Tullamore or a similar town, aircraft would achieve altitudes of one mile by the time they reached the coast. A new airport should be built in an environmentally friendly fashion, which was not the case with Dublin Airport. In the 1930s, when the airport was built, people could not spell the word "environment", not to speak of understanding its consequences. Future generations will judge us on what we do now and will ask how it was possible that we allowed a new runway to proceed. We must look ahead.
Ms Angela Lawton
I wish first to address the issue of noise. We suffer noise day and night. Recreationally, we cannot sit out in our gardens or speak to our neighbours so threatened is our way of life. We are woken at all hours of the nights and it is common to hear terribly loud noise at 5.40 a.m. The constant noise of aircraft is distressing, especially for people who are unwell or worried. The World Health Organisation has admitted that high levels of noise cause high blood pressure and heart disease.
On a human level, I wish to give a personal example. Two years ago when a member of my family was terminally ill, we used to receive daily bulletins from St. James's Hospital. On one occasion, the telephone rang when my relative's condition was particularly bad. I was in the kitchen and picked up the telephone. I could not hear what the person in the hospital was saying. The flights continued and I could not call the hospital back to check the news for another 20 minutes. Several other people have had similar experiences.
I telephoned my local authority, Fingal County Council, and was told its hands were tied and that while something had to be done, the council was helpless. This is the reason we described Aer Rianta as a state within a state and a law unto itself. When we tried to bring the company to court on the issue of engine testing, it transpired it had conveniently passed a by-law allowing it to do what it liked when it liked. Aer Rianta is above the State and answerable to no one. The council told me it had no option but to sit back and wait for European Union directives on noise. In the meantime, Aer Rianta will do what it likes.
Chemical pollution, which is also bad, is an issue on which it is difficult to obtain information. Chicago Midway Airport has an annual passenger turnover of 19 million, a figure Dublin Airport is approaching. Of cancers in the area around the airport, 10.4% are attributed to pollution from the airport, not only from flights, but also due to what are known as volatile organic compounds caused by loading and unloading fuel and car pollution such as nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide. Under the Kyoto agreement, we are supposed to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide. These have increased significantly and Government approval for an additional runway will lead to a further increase.
I telephoned the Health Research Board asking whether it had carried out any studies on the health effects of Dublin Airport on people in the surrounding area. I was informed it had done no such studies. I use this opportunity to call on the Departments of Health and Children and Education and Science to carry out studies on the health effects of Dublin Airport. To paraphrase the former resident of the west, John Healy, someone has to shout "stop" to the proposal to at least double capacity in Dublin Airport.
I accept the point that we need to examine Dublin Airport from a long-term perspective. The delegation showed the committee the severe noise zone and illustrated the flight corridor for the proposed flight path into Dublin Airport. Will it furnish the committee with a similar model for the three runways already in operation?
Aer Rianta would probably be best able to provide that information.
We will try to get the information from Aer Rianta.
The ERM study, which maps the inner and outer danger zones on each runway, provides a good indication of the information the Deputy requested. Our presentation maps out only the runways which affect us and the proposed runway. The cross runway, known as 16/34, is a black line in the middle of the Z shape in the presentation. The 10/28 runway and the proposed runway will run parallel to the area marked in red.
Unfortunately, there appears to be some discrepancy between the ERM map and the information we received from Aer Rianta. Without consultation with the community, the company earlier this year created what it described as environmental corridors, which are actually noise corridors. Previously, pilots were asked to stick to the centre line path marked on a corridor. Now they have a cushion of comfort of up to 1,800 metres to each side of the centre line path, which Aer Rianta calls an environmental corridor. This is not reflected in the ERM consultants report, in which the two proposed outer danger zones are discreetly separated. The whole of Portmarnock would be a crash area. It is an extremely frightening and dangerous development for the community.
Ms Kavanagh mentioned runway numbers. Aer Rianta referred to Ryanair's proposal for an extension of 11/29. To which runway does this number refer?
Runway 11/29 will be reorientated to build the proposed new runway. It is alreadyin situ and approximates to the blue line on our drawing. It is an existing runway.
It is a light aircraft runway which Aer Rianta proposes to extend.
It does not have to extend it because it has adequate capacity to extend 10/28 if it so wished. To date, no adequate study has been undertaken on this issue. Aer Rianta is pushing for this approach instead of taking a thoughtful approach. It is driven by commercial considerations, not a community, national or systemic approach. The company does not just manage Dublin Airport, it operates an airport system in which capacity should be distributed.
The Green Party supports the claims being made by UPROAR and shares the serious environmental concerns it has raised. I hope we will make use of a royal commission report - perhaps UPROAR members are not aware of it - on the long-term environmental effects of aviation travel, not just at Dublin Airport or in Ireland but internationally. When we start to take into account the environmental costs of air pollution at a stratospheric level, severe tax increases on air travel will be necessary which will reduce the volume of travel.
The Deputy should ask questions.
I will ask a question. The key failing in Aer Rianta's argument is its prediction of a throughput of 30 million passengers by 2020. Any analysis of available fuel supply at that time and its environmental impact would show this will figure be difficult to achieve. Has UPROAR carried out any research on this figure? Has it focused its attention on it as the key failing in Aer Rianta's argument, whatever about the local environmental argument?
I agree the figures are exaggerated and reflect wishful thinking. The State has a population of only 3.7 million, or five million on the island as a whole.
Aer Rianta is trying to cater for ten times that population in its current plans. We think that is highly unlikely. In any event, there is an existing capacity in the system without building anything to cater for that growth. The fact that aircraft sizes are getting bigger has been conveniently glossed over. With the same number of aircraft movements you could have 10% more traffic as a consequence. It is blinkered in terms of what it wants to achieve. We believe that is born out of privatisation, stubbornness or whatever adjective you choose to use. On top of that, we are subsidising its operation. We are subsidising the people who come in here for stag parties to urinate all over Temple Bar. I am sorry. Is that too extreme?
I think it is a bit extreme. Only a minority of people who come through Dublin Airport go to Temple Bar.
I know, but why should the taxpayer subsidise that?
Come on. The presentation has been most interesting but it is a bit much to say that.
I withdraw my remark, Chairman.
The people who come through in huge numbers are tourists. Yesterday we listened to spokespersons for Shannon Airport and the Western Alliance speak about the importance of tourism to the economy. To say that Dublin Airport is there to take in people, as Mr. Byrne said——
I am sorry. I said the system——
It does not enhance his argument.
Thank you for your advice, Chairman. I bow to your superior knowledge.
I am just saying that it was a most interesting presentation.
Good. We will leave it at that then.
On behalf of the committee, I thank everyone for a most interesting presentation. We know a lot of work was put into it on a voluntary basis and we have learned a great deal from it.
Before we conclude, I wish to thank you, Chairman, for giving us such a good audience.
Can the committee do anything to help us as a community in regard to this issue? We have explained that if this proposed runway goes ahead we will be living in an outer danger zone. We need the help of this all-party transport committee. What can you do for us?
We will have to discuss that. We can talk about it after the meeting.
Thank you very much.