Sunday 19 November 2017

Aviation chief Anne fills Oireachtas in on vision

The situation has drawn the ire of passengers
The situation has drawn the ire of passengers

John Manning

THE chairperson of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has told an Oireachtas committee that the authority would like to proceed with building a new air traffic control tower at Dublin Airport by 2020 and has called on the DAA and the Government to revive plans for a second parallel runway at the airport to be ready for the same date.

IAA chairperson, Anne Nolan was speaking before the Oireachtas Transport Committee this month and she laid out a vision for the future of Irish aviation that includes strong growth at Dublin Airport.

She told the committee: 'Dublin Airport is currently the seventh largest airport in Europe in terms of passenger numbers.

'While it suffered dreadfully during the downturn, there is now a sharp upswing. So far this year there has been a 7% growth in air traffic numbers.

'The utilisation of the main runway is among the best in Europe and the number of aircraft it can safely handle per hour is second only to Gatwick, which has a superior ground infrastructure to Dublin, enabling easier access to the runway.'

The IAA chairperson looked to the immediate future, and said: 'We must start to prepare for an uplift in the Irish and global economies.

'The IAA has received planning permission to build a new tower at Dublin Airport. We put the project on hold about five years ago on account of the economic downturn and the consequent slump in traffic at State airports, including Dublin.

'Traffic has now started to pick up and we estimate that we will be back to 2008 levels by 2020.

'If that happens, the single runway at Dublin Airport will not be enough to handle all aircraft.

'We would like to see the DAA and the Government take the initiative to construct a parallel runway.

'We could then go ahead with our tower project and by 2020 the IAA would be in excellent shape to meet capacity demands at Dublin Airport.'

Chairman of the committee, Deputy John O'Mahony TD (FG), expressed some concerns about those plans and warned that aviation development should not be concentrated only in Dublin.

He said: 'I am not suggesting that the new tower at Dublin Airport should not be built and neither am I contradicting Ms Nolan's view.

'Tourist numbers dropped in the past as a result of the recession and the fact that Ireland was no longer competitive because prices had gone through the roof.

'It appears that this could be happening again, particularly in Dublin where there is a shortage of hotel rooms.

'Is there a danger of another bubble that will, in the long term, cause problems for tourism in particular as well as traffic?

'Is there a strategy to spread the numbers visiting the country across the regional airports, thereby ensuring an even spread of development?'

Ms Nolan replied: 'I hope that we will not again experience in our lifetimes what we witnessed in the past five or six years.

'It would be dreadful, so I hope we have learned something. All of the issues raised by the Chairman will be covered during the consultation on the Minister's policy document, which he has just released.

'The plan set out in the document is to establish an aviation forum that involves everyone in the business, although I am unsure of what he is calling it. It will be the place to thrash out such issues'

Fingal Independent

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