Regional airports face closure as funds cut

REGIONAL airports, including Kerry, Galway, Donegal and Knock, face closure under Government plans to stop funding them in its capital spending programme for the next five years.

Under revised plans for the country’s infrastructure, the Government also dropped a number of ambitious transport projects announced with great fanfare in 2005 under the Transport 21 initiative which promised to deliver “world-class transport infrastructure”.

A railway line between Navan and Dublin has been dropped or indefinitely postponed, as has the third phase of the Western rail corridor between Tuam and Claremorris in Galway, which would have connected Limerick and Sligo by rail.

The Government has also called a halt to further extensions to the Luas system to City West, Bray and Lucan and a cross-city link between both lines.

A report published yesterday, Infrastructure Investment Priorities 2010-2016, said there is no longer a need for many of the planned transport projects.

“A significant fall in house completions and a reduction in numbers of people commuting owing to increasing unemployment will serve to dampen demand for public transport infrastructure in the short-medium term,” it said.

The Government will “reconsider the policy” of providing financial assistance to help the country’s regional airports, according to yesterday’s report.

A €2 million operational grant for six airports along the west coast is up for renewal at the end of this year.

The state also provides €15m a year to regional airports through what it calls Public Service Obligation (PSO) routes, mostly operated by Aer Arann.

The ending of the PSO routes was recommended by Bord Snip last July and Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said in February last year the subsidies could “no longer be justified”.

Yesterday’s report said: “The case for regional development of airports has been driven more as a supply rather than a demand-led policy, inspired by regional development goals rather than to satisfy the latent demand in the market.”

It said: “Given the much improved road and rail links – it is prudent to reconsider the policy at this time.”


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