Taoiseach Micheál Martin has paid tribute to the management of Cork Airport and the Dublin Airport Authority for ensuring that the €10 million refurbishment of the airport's runway was achieved within budget and on time.
Mr Martin said that he was delighted to officially open the newly refurbished runway at the airport, which next year's celebrates its 60th anniversary, and the investment would ensure that the facility was future proofed to maintain connectivity for Cork and the southwest in the years ahead.
“The investment by the Government of €10 million in this project will ensure continued, essential, connectivity – connecting people and places, families and friends, economies and businesses; with enormous benefits for the city, the wider region and for the country.”
Cork Airport management decided to avail of the huge drop in passenger numbers due to Covid-19 to fully close the airport from September 10th last for ten weeks to allow the reconstruction work on the airport’s main runway, Runway 16/34 be completed in time for the busy Christmas period.
Speaking at Saturday's official opening ceremony, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Hildegard Naughton said Cork Airport was a key strategic national asset.
“Cork Airport has been connecting people, places, families and businesses for the last 60 years. The whole team here have been unwavering in their focus on recovery and building a successful future for Cork Airport,” said Ms Naughton.
"This is clearly seen in the return of airlines and services to the airport along with new services such as the new weekly service to Geneva this winter operated by Swiss International Air Lines. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will double its daily service between Cork and Amsterdam from next week."
Ms Naughton also welcomed Ryanair’s commitment to Cork by basing two aircraft there and she said she hoped to announce funding for Cork Airport as part of the Regional Airport Programme in the coming weeks which would reflect the government’s confidence in Cork’s future growth.
Cork airport managing director, Niall MacCarthy paid tribute to everyone involved in the project, ensuring that the refurbishment of the runway was completed on schedule and within budget, thereby vindicating the decision to close completely during the ten week construction period.
“Rebuilding and reopening the new runway here is a major milestone on our road to recovery post Covid-19. Rebuilding major infrastructure is always disruptive but we have confined the disruption to a 10-week off-peak period and now we can reap the benefits of recovery.”
Mr MacCarthy said that he and his team were very confident for the future of the airport as he pointed out that quality of the finished runway was a testament to the tight teamwork undertaken by their airport team, their DAA group team and all their skilled construction partners.
He said over 430 people were employed by the main contractor Colas Limited, DAA's integrated delivery partner Bechtel and sub-contractors including Atmac Construction, Atkins – a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, Brooklyn Engineering Services, FLI Carlow and Lagan Asphalt Group.
DAA Group Head of Communications, Kevin Cullinane said the decision to fully close the airport for ten weeks stemmed from the fact that passenger numbers at Cork had dropped significantly since the Covid 19 pandemic with just 200,000 passengers predicted to pass through the airport this year.
“With passenger numbers currently down 97 per cent it made prudent business sense to fast track major capital investment projects now while the airport is extremely quiet,” said Mr Cullinane, adding that it was originally scheduled to carry out the work by night over nine months in 2022 and 2023.
He explained that Cork airport’s only jet capable runway was built in 1961 and was originally 1,883m long but was extended by a further 300m in 1989 but since then it has only undergone significant investment in 1999 when an overlay was put on the original runway.
Mr Cullinane said that typically Cork airport has more than 22,000 commercial landings annually while it also facilitates thousands of smaller aircraft each year and like any busy runway, will develop deep structural cracks over time with foreign object debris becoming an ongoing potential hazard.
Among those to attend today's official opening ceremony was Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath, the Deputy Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr John Sheehan and the Deputy Mayor of Cork County Cllr Seamus McGrath.