Dáil Support For Air Routes 'Up In The Air'

Changes to Government supports for local air travel in the wake of a major review of the expenditure involved have been announced.

The Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said Government support is provided to certain routes under a Public Service Obligation (PSO) after an analysis of the public need for the service to be provided.

Minister Dempsey's decisions are based on the recommendations of the Value for Money Review of Exchequer Spending on regional airports.

He said that Government support for the PSO routes between Dublin and Donegal and between Dublin and Kerry will be continued, but support for four PSO routes will be discontinued as of July this year.

The routes in question connect Dublin to Sligo, Knock, Galway and Derry. The decisions have been made in the context of "scarce exchequer resources" and in the context of improved alternative transport services.

Minister Dempsey stressed the improvements in alternative transport modes, which have taken place: "Alternatives to air services, specifically travel by rail and road, have greatly improved since the Regional Airports Programme began, particularly with Government investment under Transport 21 in recent years.

"It must also be borne in mind that there are many demands on the Department of Transport's Vote and trying to maintain a level of expenditure on the Regional Airports Programme which is no longer sustainable would impact negatively on other areas such as public transport provision and road maintenance," he said.

The Minister also said that by implementing the recommendations of the Review he expected that the appropriate use of scarce Exchequer resources would be used in a more focused way to secure an adequate network of regional airports serving the Irish public, both in terms of business and tourism.

"Where a PSO route is being terminated from mid July 2011, the route will be open to commercial air services from that date," he continued.

"The combination of an improved surface transport network together with a more consolidated air service network to regional airports, along with the State Airports at Cork, Shannon and Dublin, provides the necessary transport access to underpin Ireland's sustainable development."


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