Wednesday 19 June 2019

Waterford Airport needs €12m revamp 'to drive development in the south east'

Call for funding: Waterford Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey. Picture: Collins
Call for funding: Waterford Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey. Picture: Collins
John Downing

John Downing

Unless Waterford Airport gets a €12m revamp it "does not have a viable future", a special report to Government has warned.

The new report points out that up to €7m has already been secured via local authorities in the region and some private investors who are ready to come on board with managerial expertise at board level. That leaves a shortfall of €5m from national coffers.

Former local government minister and Waterford senator Paudie Coffey has urged the Government to embrace the findings of the new expert report. The Fine Gael representative said that the demands of Brexit mean that transport facilities in the south east must urgently be improved.

"The Ireland 2040 national investment plan envisages a 50pc increase in population across the entire south east region, with Waterford as the main centre driving development. New funding for the airport would be an indispensable part of much-needed transport facilities development," Mr Coffey told the Irish Independent.

The report finds that while the south east has 8.8pc of the country's population, it generates just 5.5pc of national wealth and gets a similar volume of IDA-created jobs and overseas tourist visitor numbers.

The document also notes that a viable regional airport is central to a region's effective economic development, with direct air access being a huge generator of new jobs.

The report authors note that significant interest has been generated from private investors.

"€5m has been committed to date by a small number of regionally based private investors. An additional €2m has been committed by a number of local authorities in the south east, bringing to €7m the total value of funding that has been secured to date," the report states. The authors warn that "the private investment module is now at a virtual conclusion". So there is great stress on the need for an early decision by the Government.

Changes envisaged include extending the runway to make the airport more user-friendly, and the forging of a commercial relationship with a low-cost airline.

The report authors acknowledge that staffing will be the largest airport running cost but they also pledge to keep as tight a rein as possible on all the costs.

Irish Independent

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