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Written Answers. - State Airports.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 1

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 58. Mr. Quinn Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  the Government's proposals for the future of Aer Rianta; if his attention has been drawn to the serious concern expressed both by Aer Rianta executives and by unions representing workers in Aer Rianta at reports that the company is to be broken up; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23453/02]

 67. Mr. J. O'Keeffe Information on Jim O'Keeffe Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  the future plan for Cork Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23199/02]

 85. Mr. Deenihan Information on Jimmy Deenihan Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  asked the Minister for Transport Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan  the position regarding his future plans for Shannon Airport; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23574/02]

Minister for Transport (Mr. Brennan): Information on Seamus Brennan Zoom on Seamus Brennan I propose to take Questions Nos. 58, 67 and 85 together.

The programme for Government provides that, as part of the process of continuing to transform Aer Rianta, we will ensure that Shannon and Cork airports have greater autonomy and independence. On 21 October 2002, I had separate meetings with both the group of unions representing workers in Aer Rianta and the board of the company to hear their views on this proposal and related matters. A debate has now been stimulated by me both within the Shannon and Cork regions and at a national level on the best ownership structure for these two airports going forward. I have visited both Shannon and Cork airports to stimulate this debate further. I have already made it clear publicly that the issue of greater autonomy for Shannon and Cork is being considered solely in the context of continued State ownership of those airports and I emphasised this point when I met the union representatives last month. There is a genuine sense of goodwill towards the airports in the two regions on the part of local tourism and business interests and the current debate surrounding this issue has got people thinking about the best way forward.

The current position is that Aer Rianta funds developments at both Cork and Shannon from its own resources and borrowings without recourse to the Exchequer. Obviously, if the ownership structure of these airports were to be revised in a fundamental way, the issue of the level and [150] sources of funding for the airports going forward is a major area that would have to be carefully assessed.

Based on submissions which I have received to date, there is clearly a wide diversity of views on the best way forward for Cork and Shannon airports which range from maintaining the current Aer Rianta structure to completely new, separate State companies to own and operate the two airports. Obviously, I will listen carefully to all parties who have views to offer on this issue including those of Aer Rianta and the unions. Neither I nor the Government has any ideological preconceptions with regard to this matter. There would be no point in changing the current ownership arrangements unless it can be shown that there are clear, positive benefits for Cork and Shannon and their surrounding areas.

Whatever the outcome of the current examination of options for greater autonomy for these two airports, I have already made it clear that Aer Rianta's development plans for Cork Airport will proceed. There is a general consensus that Cork Airport needs significant investment as a result of the growth in traffic through the airport in recent years and Aer Rianta is well advanced with its plans for a major new capital investment programme in infrastructure and facilities. The main feature of this programme, estimated to cost €130 million, is a 25,000 sq. m. terminal building. Planning permission for this project was secured earlier this year and Aer Rianta is evaluating tenders for the works. The company expects that the work will take two years to complete and the aim would be to have the new terminal ready for Cork's year as European City of Culture in 2005.

This major plan for Cork will bring the capacity of the airport up to 2.5 million passengers per annum and will facilitate further expansion thereafter to handle growth up to five million passengers per annum in the medium to long-term. These capacities compare with a passenger throughput at Cork Airport of almost 1.8 million last year.

The new passenger terminal at Shannon which opened in 2000 has effectively doubled the airport's capacity providing it with the capability to handle 4.5 million passengers per annum. Traffic throughput in 2001 at Shannon was 2.4 million passengers. Shannon Airport is well positioned to cater for future growth in air services.

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 56.


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