Business

Sunday 25 June 2017

McEvaddys ready for T3 takeoff

After years of planning for a new Dublin terminal, could the McEvaddy plan finally get clearance, asks Simon Rowe

Crucially, a local area masterplan for the land around Dublin Airport favours the McEvaddy project (Stock picture)
Crucially, a local area masterplan for the land around Dublin Airport favours the McEvaddy project (Stock picture)

Simon Rowe

It sounded like a flight of fancy over 20 years ago when aviation tycoons Ulick and Des McEvaddy first unveiled their ambitious plans to build an independent air terminal beside Dublin Airport.

But recent news that the duo have secured the financial backing of a Dubai-based investment group for a €2bn terminal scheme suggests their dream may be approaching lift-off.

If the project were to get the go-ahead, it would cater for an estimated 10 million passengers a year and contribute thousands of jobs, both during the construction phase and when operational.

It's been a long-haul journey for Omega Air boss Ulick McEvaddy, pictured, and his brother, Des, to get to this stage. The Mayo men have been attempting to develop a third terminal on 130 acres of land they own adjacent to Dublin Airport since the late 1990s.

Over that time their plan has experienced a great deal of turbulence: from the headwinds of an economic recession, opposition from State-owned Dublin Airport Authority, and the changing winds of government aviation policy.

Now, however, a number of events have seemingly come together to leave the McEvaddys in a strong position as regards getting clearance for their proposed €2bn T3 scheme.

First, they have secured a strategic partner with deep pockets. Dubai-based Tricap Investments is a major investment fund with a diversified investment portfolio that spans real estate, energy and aerospace in the Middle East, the US, Asia and Africa.

The managing director of Tricap Investments is Salem bin Dasmal, a former ceo of the $55bn Dubailand project, a gigantic leisure and theme park development in the city.

Cork-born Denis Mullane, a partner at Tricap, is an experienced project manager, who has worked on the construction of air terminals at Johannesburg International Airport and Dubai International Airport.

Crucially, a local area masterplan for the land around Dublin Airport favours the McEvaddy project.

McEvaddys' Omega Air backed area plans for the so-called Western Campus site - where the brothers plan to build their terminal beside Dublin Airport. Fingal Council supports the development of a range of aviation-related and complimentary land uses, including aprons and taxiways, freight terminals and aircraft maintenance facilities on the site.

It is likely the McEvaddys would also explore plans for hotels, warehousing, logistics facilities and car hire facilities on the site.

The duo's T3 plan would also likely target the growing local and international air freight market. But the success of any new terminal will come down to the operator securing an anchor airline.

A report sent to Fingal County Council planners on behalf of Omega Air last year claimed that development on the McEvaddys' 50-hectare 'Western Lands' was "the only viable option in terms of available land and enhanced accessibility for the future expansion of Dublin Airport".

But there is still no certainty and a decision on a possible new terminal has yet to be made. A Transport Department spokesman confirmed that normal planning rules will apply to the proposed McEvaddy project. "The normal planning and procurement rules which apply to all other infrastructural developments also apply in the case of airport terminals," he said.

However, some believe that mood music in relation to the T3 project is changing, which may benefit the McEvaddys. Last September, Transport Minister Shane Ross signalled a review of airport capacity would examine the potential of establishing a third, privately-operated, terminal at Dublin Airport.

Then, in February this year, speaking at a civil-aviation conference in Dublin, Minister Ross asked: "Is a State monopoly at Irish airports in the interest of the users, the taxpayer or the travelling public? I think I know the answer."

Industry sources said his remarks seemed to suggest a preference for introducing competition at Dublin Airport.

Meanwhile, documents released under Freedom of Information reveal that the McEvaddys and Tricap Investments have held high-level meetings with government ministers and Department of Transport officials over recent months to outline their plans.

The McEvaddys unveiled their T3 masterplan to Minister Ross at a meeting on July 26 last summer. Meetings were also conducted with Patrick O'Donovan, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor around this time.

The talks, which have included Transport department consultations with the Attorney General, are believed to have focused on securing access to taxiways and runways at Dublin Airport - a major sticking point for any planned independent terminal as Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) previously stated it would not allow a competing terminal access to the runway at Dublin Airport.

Further tailwinds for the McEvaddys came in the shape of a report by economic consultants Indecon, commissioned by the Government and published last July, which recommended that the State could boost competition by allowing a new airport to be built in Dublin to compete with the existing one.

The Government's aviation action plan provides for a third terminal to be developed by the time Dublin's annual passenger numbers hit 32m. Passenger numbers at Dublin Airport are on course to exceed that before 2020. Passenger numbers increased last year by 11pc to a record 27.9m.

The Department of Transport is due to commission a high-level, strategic capacity review of Dublin Airport next year. In this context, the ownership and operational structure of all State airports will be reviewed in 2019.

Meanwhile, in a further boost to plans for a new T3 - which would have to share a runway with Dublin Airport - the DAA is pressing ahead, amid legal objections from locals, with plans to build a second main runway at Dublin, 1.6km north of the existing main runway, at a cost of €320m. It is hoped it will be operational by 2020.

More than two decades on from unveiling their masterplan for a new independent air terminal to a sceptical public, the McEvaddys seem closer than ever before to landing one of the biggest projects in Irish aviation history.

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