DAA to miss out on third Dublin ter­mi­nal

■ Cab­i­net backs plan for fa­cil­ity to be op­er­ated in­de­pen­dently

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Daniel McCon­nell

An in­de­pen­dently-op­er­ated third ter­mi­nal at Dublin Air­port is now the pre­ferred op­tion of gov­ern­ment min­is­ters, the Ir­ish Ex­am­iner can re­veal.

“We are very favourable on it,” said one min­is­ter.

The prospect of a third ter­mi­nal has arisen given a sig­nif­i­cant up­surge in pas­sen­ger num­bers at Dublin Air­port, and a for­mal de­ci­sion to ap­prove the new ter­mi­nal is due by min­is­ters shortly.

The com­mence­ment of de­vel­op­ment of the sec­ond par­al­lel run­way at Dublin at a cost of €320m has led peo­ple to con­clude that the air­port will breach its pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity lev­els, re­quir­ing the ad­di­tional ter­mi­nal sooner than pre­vi­ously ex­pected.

“We are very much go­ing that way, and there is broad agree­ment within Gov­ern­ment that it is needed,” said one min­is­ter.

It is un­der­stood con­fi­den­tial dis­cus­sions within the Gov­ern­ment in re­cent weeks have raised the prospect of not giv­ing con­trol of the pro­posed €200m ter­mi­nal to the mo­nop­oly Dublin Air­port Author­ity (DAA).

“We are kind of tak­ing the DAA on. The third ter­mi­nal thing they are fu­ri­ous about, the prospect of it be­ing con­sid­ered. It is very likely to be con­sid­ered very favourably,” said one se­nior gov­ern­ment source.

The Ir­ish Ex­am­iner has learnt that Ryanair and Aer Lin­gus have com­plained about con­ges­tion at Dublin Air­port to au­thor­i­ties, with Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary of­fer­ing to build the new ter­mi­nal pri­vately.

It is also un­der­stood that the po­ten­tial of a new ter­mi­nal would al­low Dublin to be used by Aer Lin­gus’ par­ent com­pany, IAG Group, as an al­ter­na­tive global hub, which ex­perts have sug­gested could de­liver an ex­tra 20,000 jobs to the econ­omy.

For­mally, Trans­port Min­is­ter Shane Ross has fast­tracked an expert-led ca­pac­ity re­view of Dublin, Cork and Shan­non air­ports and is await­ing the re­turn of the re­port.

“In the case of Dublin Air­port only, the study will con­sider the time­frame for the de­vel­op­ment of new ter­mi­nal ca­pac­ity — Ter­mi­nal 3 — and its ap­pro­pri­ate de­sign and op­ti­mum lo­ca­tion,” Mr Ross has said.

While the re­view will “as­sess the rel­a­tive ad­van­tages and dis­ad­van­tages of the fund­ing and op­er­a­tion of Ter­mi­nal 3 by the ex­ist­ing air­port op­er­a­tor in com­par­i­son to be­ing op­er­ated on an in­de­pen­dent ba­sis,” Mr Ross and Fine Gael min­is­ters be­lieve it would be best to keep it sep­a­rate to the DAA.

Al­most 28m pas­sen­gers passed through Dublin Air­port last year, an in­crease of 11% in pas­sen­ger num­bers on the pre­vi­ous year.

Of these, 24.3m pas­sen­gers took short-haul flights to and from the air­port while 3.6m were on long-haul flights.

Both 2015 and 2016 set new records for Dublin Air­port. Traf­fic grew by a to­tal of 6.2m pas­sen­gers, or 29%, over the two-year pe­riod, the com­pany said.

Speak­ing at a civil avi­a­tion con­fer­ence in Dublin ear­lier this year, Mr Ross said: “Is a State mo­nop­oly at Ir­ish air­ports in the in­ter­est of the users, the tax­payer or the trav­el­ling pub­lic? I think I know the an­swer.”

DAA chief ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Toland is on record as hav­ing said the idea of an in­de­pen­dent ter­mi­nal was a the­o­ret­i­cal model, which was costly and in­flex­i­ble. He said it had been tried and had failed, and had been re­versed in two ma­jor air­ports in Europe and North Amer­ica.

Mr Ross re­mains un­con­vinced also at the DAA’s price tag of €320m for the sec­ond run­way, given that it was pre­vi­ously put at €250m.

There is strong scep­ti­cism within the Gov­ern­ment as to why the costs have spi­ralled so sig­nif­i­cantly and the €70m cost es­ca­la­tion too has been sav­agely crit­i­cised by Mr O’Leary.

Last week, min­is­ters ap­proved a plan to en­hance the pow­ers of the avi­a­tion reg­u­la­tor to put the con­sumer first. The reg­u­la­tor will no longer have to con­sider the fi­nan­cial po­si­tion of the DAA in de­ter­min­ing charges, in a ma­jor blow to the body, which controls Dublin and Cork air­ports.

IF, as ex­pected, the Gov­ern­ment ap­proves the es­tab­lish­ment of a new, in­de­pen­dently op­er­ated ter­mi­nal at Dublin Air­port, the pro­ject would cre­ate a great num­ber of en­vi­able jobs and gen­er­ate sig­nif­i­cant rev­enues for the ex­che­quer.

The pro­ject has been un­der con­sid­er­a­tion for some years now, but the pos­si­bil­ity of in­vest­ment sup­port from Mid­dle East­ern avi­a­tion and pen­sion in­ter­ests moves it a step closer to­wards re­al­i­sa­tion.

If, as it is be­lieved, this pro­ject is ap­proved de­spite per­ceived but un­con­firmed ob­jec­tions from the Dublin Air­port Author­ity, it would mark an­other break from the pow­er­ful agen­cies that once had such in­flu­ence on Ir­ish com­mer­cial life. If, as it is hoped, the new ter­mi­nal might in time of­fer an al­ter­na­tive hub to Heathrow, Ir­ish avi­a­tion ser­vices would as­sume a new im­por­tance on the world stage.

De­vel­op­ments of this scale in­vari­ably pro­voke anx­i­ety in the com­mu­ni­ties that might be af­fected, and plan­ning de­ci­sions are of­ten de­layed.

This one is un­likely to be any dif­fer­ent but, at this re­move, it seems a prize worth pur­su­ing.

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