Waterford Airport sets sights on €12m lifeline

Glanbia, Coolmore Stud, Dawn Meats, as well as other investors are being asked to put up €5m to help extend the runway at Waterford Airport, with the central government and local authorities stumping up a further €7m, to restart commercial flights in the region.

Local authorities in Waterford, Kilkenny, and Wexford will invest €2m of the €12m to revamp the airport, which has had no commercial flights since 2016.

Transport Minister Shane Ross announced the plan to inject €5m of central government money -- but only if the private investors do so first.

"Among the private investors who have shown a willingness to commit time, money and expertise to this project are Conor McCarthy (Leadmore Investment Company), Noel Frisby, Dawn Meats Group, Glanbia plc, Coolmore Stud, Stafford Wholesale Ltd," the department said.

However, Minister Ross said that "unless Waterford Airport receives this support, its future is highly uncertain".

The runway, when extended from its existing length of 1,433 metres to 2,280 metres, will be able to accommodate large commercial passenger aircraft such as Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s, the department said.

Minister Ross said formal confirmation of the funding was dependent on the airport being able to demonstrate that the project can be delivered for €12m.

The €5m in public money will only be paid when the runway is confirmed as ready for service by the Irish Aviation Authority, he said.

He was speaking as €8.85m in exchequer grants were given to Donegal, Knock and Kerry airports without conditions.

Waterford Airport has had no commercial flights since the middle of 2016.

In 2012, it had more than 77,000 passengers, but numbers dropped significantly in subsequent years, to just 13,500 in 2016 when commercial flights ceased.

Proposed Waterford routes to Luton, Birmingham, and Manchester by Aer Southeast, announced in 2017, failed to materialise after the airline failed to secure the required licence.

EY was appointed by Minister Ross to carry out an assessment into the viability of Waterford Airport's future, which indicated a runway extension was essential.

Waterford Institute of Technology lecturer Ray Griffin said he was not convinced by the latest funding model by Minister Ross.

"This is good news in principle. We learnt nothing other than €8.86m is confirmed for Donegal, Kerry and Knock, along with the recently announced investments in Dublin and Cork.

Anyone versed in how Irish public service works will note that this is still a non-commitment to this much needed strategic investment in Waterford Airport.

"The south-east already had this agreement in principle to this matched funding three years ago in the programme for Government.

"Well over a year after private investors, supported by the region's councils put this proposal to Government, they continue to be an unreliable partner.

"We really have learned nothing today other than Donegal, Kerry and Knock, airports with massive Ministerial support have gotten money into their bank accounts.

"Waterford, a constituency and region without a Minister, still has an application on file.”

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