Northern Ireland news

Dublin Airport bosses aim to challenge flight limits ahead of new runway

Dublin Airport will see a new runway by 2020
Ed Carty, Press Association

Dublin Airport chiefs want to challenge orders to limit flights when a second runway opens in 2020.

The 320 million euro project was first given the green light in 2007 and aviation bosses are now examining how to overturn planning restrictions on take-offs and landings between 11pm and 7am.

The 3,110 metre runway will be built 1.6km north of the existing main runway and airport bosses estimate it will help create 31,000 jobs over two decades.

It is also billed as the key expansion needed to cement Dublin as a North Atlantic hub for long-haul operations, an idea repeatedly floated by International Airlines Group when it was buying Aer Lingus.

Kevin Toland, chief executive of the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA), said the runway infrastructure as it stands is at capacity during peak hours.

"We are very conscious of balancing the national and business needs with those of our local communities and we will continue to work closely with our neighbours in relation to this project," Mr Toland added.

The DAA announced plans to challenge two of the 31 planning conditions in 2008 but the entire project was put on hold because of the recession.

Passenger numbers recovered significantly as the economy began to improve and last year was the busiest in the airport's history, with 25 million people passing through.

The DAA said passenger numbers continue to grow strongly this year, with double-digit growth recorded in January and February.

It said almost 50 new routes and services have been added to schedules in the last two years, along with significant increases in capacity on a number of existing routes and nine new airlines operating at Dublin.

Mr Toland said a second operating runway has the potential to open up connections to a range of long-haul destinations, particularly Asia, Africa and South America.

"The north runway will significantly improve Ireland's connectivity, which plays a critical role in growing passenger numbers and sustaining the future economic development of Ireland," he said.

But Mr Toland said conditions three and five of the original plan would severely reduce future operational capacity of the airport at key periods.

They include a ban on take-offs or landings on the new runway from 11pm to 7am, which would affect two of the busiest hours of the day - 6am-7am for departures and 11pm to midnight for arrivals.

The second condition restricted the average number of take-offs and landings at the airport between 11pm and 7am to 65. At the time the average was already 72.

"We have stated previously that two of these conditions are onerous and would severely reduce the future operational capacity of the airport at key periods. This has implications on our ability to support future traffic growth at the airport and we are looking at how this can be addressed," Mr Toland said.

Paschal Donohoe, acting Transport Minister, said the runway was a vital piece of infrastructure that would support Ireland's continuing economic recovery.

"It has the potential to create thousands of jobs, both directly and indirectly, over the coming years," he said.

"In recent years, Dublin Airport has experienced a strong and sustainable return to growth. However, in order to capitalise on this growth and sustain it into the future, we need to put in place the appropriate airport infrastructure."

Plans for a second operating runway have been on the agenda since the 1970s when the land was secured.

Construction on the runway is scheduled to start in 2017 and about 1,200 people will work on the building project.

The DAA refused to be drawn on how it would challenge the current planning restrictions on flights at night.

It said it is already operating 99 flights between the hours of 11pm and 7am.

Abiding by the planning order would mean building a new runway but reducing the number of night-time operations by a third.

A DAA spokeswoman said all options to address the flight limits were being considered but that aviation chiefs would like to maintain the status quo where no flights are restricted.

"It'd be akin to putting a lane on the M50 and not being allowed to use it," she said.

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