Sunday, January 15, 2012

Minister to look at options for airports

THE MINISTER FOR Transport is to engage with unions and potential investors before making a final decision on the future of Cork and Shannon airports.

Leo Varadkar had initially signalled that a decision would be made early this year, following a recommendation to Cabinet.

However, the Minister has now said he will bring a “memo for information” before Government shortly with a further “memo for decision” to be presented to Cabinet later this year. This follows a report received last month from consultants Booz on the various options for the airports.

“When it comes to timescale, I need to spend a little more time in consultations and discussions,” the Minister told the Dáil last week.

“I have not yet had a proper chance to talk to the unions, for example, some of the stakeholders in the various regions and some of the businesses that are interested in investing.

“Given that any decision to proceed with separation could require legislation, getting it all done this year is ambitious but possible.”

Mr Varadkar said that over time Cork airport’s debts would “have to be paid off by passengers using Dublin airport”.

“Cork is working very well as an airport but the difficulty there is the enormous debt that has arisen from the new terminal which it will not be able to pay off on its own,” he explained.

He said Shannon had a “great future as a passenger airport but also as one which is concerned with avionics and aero-industry”.

Mr Varadkar said the status quo at Shannon was not “working and the airport is in decline”.

The Irish Times last month revealed that Booz recommended that Shannon be separated from the Dublin Airport Authority and placed into a separate corporate structure with a remit to expand its activities.

Booz also concluded that debts associated with Cork meant it should remain with the DAA for the immediate future, although with greater autonomy.

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