Michael McGrath, Minister for Public Expenditure & Reform; Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director, Cork Airport; Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State at the Department of Transport; and Gearoid Lohan, CEO of Colas Ireland, at Cork Airport after the announcement of funding. Photo: Brian Lougheed

Airport project gaining altitude

Government funding of €10 million has been confirmed for Cork Airport to go towards the reconstruction of its main runway.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport Hildegarde Naughton approved the funding this week, saying it will be the single biggest investment by any government at Cork Airport.

The reconstruction project contract has been awarded to Colas Limited, part of the International Colas Group, a leader in the design, maintenance and construction of transport infrastructure.

Close to 250 construction and supply jobs will be created during the project, including several local specialist sub-contractor roles.

Mobilisation and preparatory site works will begin at night immediately, without impacting the airport's summer flight schedule.

Cork Airport will remain open for summer traffic, serving Ryanair, Aer Lingus, KLM, Lufthansa, Swiss and Air France routes until close of business on 12 September.

The main construction works will follow on a 24/7 basis over a ten-week period from 13 September, with construction of the new runway expected to be completed by 22 November in advance of the busy Christmas travel period.

Over €40 million is set to be invested in Cork Airport between 2020-2022 to upgrade the critical infrastructure at the airport including the runway reconstruction, a new electrical sub-station and a new hold baggage security screening system.

The reconstruction of Cork Airport’s main runway will be the fastest large-scale construction project undertaken in the state in recent years.

Commenting on the runway reconstruction project, Minister Naughton said that when complete, it will serve as a key strategic asset for Cork and the entire region over the next 20 years.

“By closing the airport, this very significant project can be delivered in a quicker time, in a safer environment, and with less long-term impacts on airlines and passengers,” she said.

The Minister added that following the ten-week closure period, the airport will be in a position to reopen in good time for Christmas and to operate without restriction in 2022. “Government policy on airports, like Cork, is to optimise conditions for regional development and connectivity, both for social and economic benefits.

“The funding is a clear indication of the importance that Government attaches to this airport and its capacity to weather the current crisis and to plan for recovery and growth into the future,” she said.

Also welcoming the news was Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director at Cork Airport, who said the rebuilding of the runway is the largest construction project to be undertaken at Cork Airport since the building of the new terminal 15 years ago.

“The construction programme includes the replacement of the airfield electrical systems, ducts and pits. These are all between 20 and 30 years old and the resulting electrical upgrade will reduce our runway electrical carbon footprint by 70 per cent,” he said.

Typically, the main runway at Cork Airport carries more than 22,000 commercial aircraft movements annually and facilitates thousands of smaller aircraft.

In 2019, Cork Airport had 2.6 million passengers, a rise of eight per cent on the previous year. This made it the fastest-growing airport on the island of Ireland.

Before Covid-19, Cork Airport served 57 scheduled routes with nine airlines. Cork Airport is currently serving 15 routes at a lower frequency than normal.