Written answers

Thursday, 4 July 2024

Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport

Airport Policy

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael)
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29. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on the matter of providing co-funding for developments at Waterford Airport. [25979/24]

Photo of James LawlessJames Lawless (Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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As the Deputy will be aware, in June 2019 the then Government gave an approval in principle of an expression of support for an expansion proposal at Waterford Airport and to providing Exchequer funding of €5m towards a runway extension project. The project was then estimated to cost €12m and the €5m Government support being sought at that time was not only contingent on local authority and private investment necessary to complete the project being committed and any risks relating to cost escalation being borne by the non-State investors, but also on full details of the project being provided to my Department for consideration. Despite engagement with the airport over the intervening period, this detail remained outstanding until 13 December 2023.

Furthermore, the development proposal submitted by Waterford Airport outlines that the project costings have increased substantially above the original estimated cost of €12m to €27m, deviating significantly from the proposal in 2019. Given that an early assessment of the proposal is being sought by the airport, my Department has prioritised the necessary assessment of the proposal submitted, which is taking account of an increased Exchequer funding contribution of €12m now being sought. Such an assessment is necessary to ensure that due diligence is exercised in accordance with my Department's Transport Appraisal Framework and the Public Spending Code/Infrastructure Guidelines.

I understand that an initial assessment of the development proposal was complete by my Department in mid-February. A number of clarification requests and questions seeking further detail had been raised with the airport. This is to be expected with an appraisal process of this nature. On foot of this, an updated submission was made by the airport to the Department with additional outstanding detail provided on 27 May. I understand that my predecessor, Minister Jack Chambers, met with board members of Waterford Airport last month, , along with Minister Mary Butler and other local representatives, and discussed the acceleration of this appraisal process.

The Deputy will understand that it is essential that a business case must be made for the proposals, requiring as they do significant State aid, and any plan must be supported by robust empirical evidence. It is also essential to understand the public/private aspects of the proposal and the various contingencies that may arise in different scenarios. I reserve an open mind on the issue and await assessment of any proposal on that basis.

I can assure the Deputy that my Department is continuing to engage with airport management in order to bring all matters raised to a conclusion. I will consider my Department's initial assessment of this proposal when this engagement with the airport is complete.

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