Speech by the Minister for Transport, Martin Cullen, TD
Government Press Centre, 21 February 2007
Thank you for being here this morning.
I am delighted to announce that the Government has given approval for capital grant allocations amounting to €86 million under a new scheme we launched last year for the six regional airports. The regional airports in Ireland are: Ireland West Airport Knock; Kerry Airport; Waterford South East Regional Airport; Donegal Airport, Sligo Airport and Galway Airport. This funding will come from within the total of €100 million earmarked for capital investment in Transport 21 the Government's investment programme for transport. The allocations I am announcing today refer to the period up to the end of 2010.
The regional airports are one of the success stories of the transport sector in recent years. Drawing on immense reserves of local dedication, they have seen total passenger traffic grow almost threefold since the decade began. Exchequer support has been a factor in that success, and we now have the opportunity to intensify that support to encourage and facilitate further growth.
The allocations under the new scheme represent an unprecedented level of investment in the regional airports. They clearly reflect the Government's conviction that the regional airports have a key role to play in achieving balanced regional development. These airports are already well established as an essential part of the infrastructure in the regions they serve. By facilitating their further development in a very direct and focused way, funding under this scheme will substantially boost their ability to add value to their regional hinterlands by making it easier to attract inward investment and new tourism business.
The Regional Airports Capital Grant Scheme
When we drew up the new scheme last year we had the following three main objectives in view:
To make sure that the airports would be able to comply with the latest aviation safety and security standards needless to say, this as always is the priority concern;
To help to optimise their contribution to achieving regional balance, in line with the National Spatial Strategy and the broad thrust of Transport 21; and
To help their capital development programmes where there was clear demand for additional air services and where an economic case could be made for increased investment.
The scheme I launched last July addressed these objectives through two distinct Measures:
Measure 1 - provided for grants at the 90% rate for safety and security projects aimed at satisfying the requirements of the Irish Aviation Authority and my own Department's Aviation Security Division, respectively; and
Measure 2 - provided for grants at the 75% rate for developmental projects aimed at catering for projected new business.
There was a very strong response from the regional airports under both headings, and projects involving a total potential Exchequer contribution of €150 million were submitted.
The allocations set out in the press release which you should all have, reflect the differing sizes and stages of development of the various airports. The allocations in all cases represent maximum approvals and are subject to agreement in detail on project scope and specifications.
The beneficiaries under the scheme are:
Ireland West Airport Knock is to receive €27 million, including €17 million for a major apron (aircraft parking area) and terminal building extension. The airport has a 2,300-metre runway and a proven track record and will be the focus for investment in the west and northwest region.
Kerry Airport is to receive almost €17.7 million. Included in this sum is a maximum €13.1 million for terminal and related facilities to cater for a substantial projected increase in tourist business, especially short break traffic, in this tourism region.
Waterford South East Regional Airport is to receive €22.3 million, that includes €13 million for a runway extension, widening and other improvements. This will allow the airport to generate the level of business necessary to make its full contribution to a region where there is a substantial infrastructural deficit in relation to the airport.
Donegal, Sligo and Galway regional airports are to receive €3.8 million, €8.5 million and €6.3 million respectively for projects aimed at providing enhanced levels of safety and security, including in the case of Sligo, an essential runway end safety project. Included in Galway Airport's €6.3 million allocation is the sum of €3.5 million for developmental works.
I want to see a network of airports that have used the available funding to build up their capacity to cater safely and sustainably for their catchment areas and to act as a catalyst for further regional growth.
This demands a business-like approach on the part of the regional airports, a requirement that is underscored from the very outset by the fact that they will have to provide matching funding under both Measures 1 and 2. I know that this will be extremely challenging and will require a high level of commitment by the airports themselves and by their respective communities.
The Government are confident that the airports will respond to the opportunities presented by the new funding. The strengths that have already taken the sector so far are being augmented by new skills and levels of professionalism. I fully expect that with the support of this major aid package, the airports will be sufficiently encouraged to achieve the ambitious targets that they have set for themselves and accordingly, to enhance their contribution to the regions they serve.
Thank you very much.