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Ryanair lodges objection against €200 million runway tunnel at Dublin Airport

The airline said the underpass will “contribute towards an excessively high per passenger price cap and damage the recovery of Irish aviation”.

Image: Alamy Stock Photo

RYANAIR HAS LODGED an objection to plans by Dublin Airport operator daa to construct a €200m tunnel under the 16/34 runway at the airport.

The airport operator lodged the plans last month with a daa planning report stating that the underpass “will provide a short, quick and safe access” from the Eastern Campus to the Western Campus of the airport “that will avoid interfaces with operating runways and taxiways”.

The 700 metre-long tunnel will involve two lanes and extend to 1.1km in length from ‘top of ramp to top of ramp”.

The tunnel project – if granted planning permission – will take three years to construct.

However, on behalf of Ryanair, Ray Ryan of BMA Planning has told Fingal County Council that “if the current underpass project is allowed to proceed, it will contribute towards an excessively high per passenger price cap and damage the recovery of Irish aviation, which depends on the cost competitiveness of Dublin airport”.

Ryan points out that Ryanair is the largest airline using Dublin and therefore has a vested interest in all proposals which affect operations at the airport.

Ryan states that Ryanair “is concerned that these proposals will lead to considerable disruption to airport activities during the construction phase and that whether alternatives have been adequately addressed”.

On the airline’s ‘grounds of objection’, Ryan argues that the business case for the spending of over €200 million on this project has not been made.

He states that “the cost estimate also needs to be revisited as it is likely to increase even further given the current trends in construction and material costs”.

Ryan contends that “these costs will be passed to the airlines and ultimately the consumer reducing the cost competitiveness of Dublin airport and connectivity as airlines will likely move capacity elsewhere to cheaper alternative airports”.

The daa application states that the airport operations are primarily concentrated on the Eastern Campus and access to the West Apron has become more difficult with the new North Runway which became operational in August as the only access route now to the Western Campus or Apron is the northern perimeter road.

The documents state: “The Irish Aviation Authority requires on safety grounds that an alternative solution be put in place as soon as possible.”

However, Ryan states that Ryanair believes “that such an underpass is unnecessary because vehicular access between the east and west aprons of the airport is possible to achieve at surface levels if Runway 16/34 is closed intermittently to allow vehicular access as necessary but Runway 16/34 retained for cross-wind landings”.

Ryan stated that daa “cites the unwillingness of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) to allow vehicular crossings of a live runway”.

He states: “However, the exceptional need related to cross wind conditions affects only 0.5pc of annual aircraft movements.”

Ryan states that “this means that there would be no impediment to vehicular crossings save in exceptional circumstances as vehicular crossings of taxiways are commonplace”.

The objection adds that a further issue of concern “is the loss of aircraft stands as the daa is already struggling this Summer with a lack of stand capacity for aircraft”.

Ryan states that the proposed development involves the net loss of aircraft stands at Pier 3 to accommodate the portal and underpass access roads.

Ryan argues that “removing more stands for no gain in operational capacity required explanation and justification particularly where Ryanair can attest that Dublin airport was unable to provide them with their required contact stands during Summer 2022”.

Ryan further argues that a project that does not propose any increase in capacity and that results in permanent loss and temporary disruption to aircraft stands is contrary to the Dublin Airport Local Area Plan 2020.

Planning documents lodged on behalf of daa state that the underpass will allow safe, unconstrained access to the West Apron of 23 stands for existing operations and allow traffic to safety taxi to the Northern and Southern runways.

Planning documents with the application state that the tunnel plan “is a stand alone proposal and is not reliant on future airport growth in order to be released, nor does future airport growth require the proposed development”.

Group Head of Communications with daa, Kevin Cullinane said on Wednesday: “The underpass is required to improve access and safety on the airfield, allowing for the segregation of aircraft and vehicles, and the safe movement of vehicles to the West Apron, which is restricted following the opening of the new North Runway on August 24, 2022.”

He said: “Safe access to the West Apron is critically important to existing cargo operations, transit operations, General Aviation (GA), stand-by parking and contingency stands.”

He said that the underpass “will be critical to ensure Dublin Airport maintains the highest international safety standards and meets current and future operational requirements”.

A decision is due on the application later this month.

About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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