Tuesday, 14 June 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
504. Dr. Cowley asked the Minister for Transport if his attention has been drawn to the fact that Knock International Airport is one of Ireland’s international airports, has a runway capacity for a Boeing 747 and is the only international airport located within the BMW region; if, in view of this and in view of the airport’s significant regional development, he will support an investment programme for Knock International Airport (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19629/05]
Minister for Transport (Mr. Cullen): The policy on regional airports is to assist in optimising the contribution that the network of regional airports can make to balanced regional development. In appraising capital investment proposals, the priority is to focus on improvement works and upgrades in facilities that maintain continued safe and viable operations.
The three State airports, which operate to a commercial mandate, account for approximately 95% of all air traffic and are capable of serving the country’s primary air transport needs. The State airports have the scope and capacity to expand to cater for future growth in national air traffic for the foreseeable future. Their size, scale and catchment areas mean they inevitably attract a range of airline services to and from other locations. The reforms introduced in the State Airports Act are intended to strengthen and stimulate those airports in achieving greater efficiency and promoting further air traffic development. The role of the State airports is complemented by the regional development role of regional airports, such as Knock. The grant assistance schemes for regional airports are therefore targeted towards this complementary role.
Exchequer support for the six regional airports in Donegal, Sligo, Knock, Galway, Kerry and Waterford falls under two categories. Support for essential safety-related capital investment is available under the BMW and south and east regional operational programmes of the national development plan. Grants are also available towards operational expenditure incurred by the airports on marketing, safety and security. Over the past five years, Knock Airport has received more funding than any other airport under both NDP capital grants and marketing grants.
My Department also supports regional air access through the essential air service programme, by providing financial compensation to air carriers on PSO routes, such as Knock-Dublin, where carriers would not be prepared to operate on a commercial basis. I recently announced the award of the contract for the continuation of services on the route for the next three years.
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