'The next phase starts from right here': Historic day as Cork Airport resumes operations 

The reconstruction of the airport’s main runway was completed on schedule and within budget in a 10-week construction period. 
'The next phase starts from right here': Historic day as Cork Airport resumes operations 

Pictured at the ribbon cutting, were from left: Cllr. John Sheehan, deputising for the Lord Mayor of Cork; Bishop Fintan Gavin, Bishop of Cork & Ross; Bishop Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne & Ross, Church of Ireland; Basil Geoghegan, daa Chairman; An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, TD; Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director, Cork Airport; Hildegarde Naughton TD, Minister of State at the Department of Transport; Simon Coveney TD, Minister for Foreign Affairs; Michael McGrath TD, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform; Dalton Philips, daa Group CEO; Cllr. Seamus McGrath, deputising for the Mayor of the County of Cork; Gearoid Lohan, CEO, Colas Ireland Limited.

TODAY marks a historic day for Cork Airport as it reopens following the completion of the fastest large-scale construction project undertaken in the State in recent years.

The reconstruction of the airport’s main runway, completed on schedule and within budget in a 10-week construction period, will enable Cork “to reclaim its rightful place as the State’s fastest-growing and second-largest airport”, the CEO of Cork Airport’s parent company, daa plc, Dalton Philips said at a ceremony to mark the opening of the new-and-improved runway at the weekend. 

“Cork Airport will continue to drive the economic growth and development of Cork and the south of Ireland into the future.

“The next phase starts from right here, where we’re standing today, and there’s no limit to where it can take us,” he continued.

A model for other NDP projects 

The Taoiseach Micheál Martin was in Cork on Saturday to officially open the newly reconstructed main runway — a project he said that “future-proofs a critically important strategic asset” for many years to come.

He was joined by Hildegarde Naughton, the junior transport minister; senior cabinet members; and civic and business leaders to witness the result of the single biggest investment by any government at Cork Airport.

The project to reconstruct the main runway was supported by Government funding of €10m from the Department of Transport, announced in November last year, with the balance of funding coming from the daa to complete the project.

“It is my great privilege today to officially reopen the newly reconstructed Cork Airport runway and mark the successful delivery of the 10-week reconstruction project,” Mr Martin said on Saturday.

“This project future-proofs a critically important strategic asset for Cork, the southwest region, and for Ireland for many years to come.

“The investment by the Government of €10m 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.”

Mr Martin said the airport, which celebrated its 60th anniversary last month, has played an “essential role” over the decades in “boosting the economic and social wellbeing of Cork and its people”.

He said the reconstruction project was “a model for how we can deliver other projects in the NDP”.

Mr Martin said the Government was “committed to building strong, regional strategic cities”.

“They have to shoulder a lot of the weight in terms of the future population growth and economic development of this country, and that’s where this investment fits in — in terms of overall strategic vision, in terms of growing the region —and this will help us in that regard.”

A national asset

Ms Naughton described Cork Airport as “a key strategic national asset”.

“Before the arrival of Covid-19 to our shores, Cork Airport was on a strong growth trajectory with over 2.6m passengers recorded in 2019,” she said.

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin officially opened the newly reconstructed main runway at Cork Airport at a ceremony on Saturday. Pictured is An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, TD cutting the cake to mark the occasion accompanied by Hildegarde Naughton TD, Minister of State at the Department of Transport; Dalton Philips, daa Group CEO and Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director, Cork Airport. Picture: Brian Lougheed
An Taoiseach Micheál Martin officially opened the newly reconstructed main runway at Cork Airport at a ceremony on Saturday. Pictured is An Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, TD cutting the cake to mark the occasion accompanied by Hildegarde Naughton TD, Minister of State at the Department of Transport; Dalton Philips, daa Group CEO and Niall MacCarthy, Managing Director, Cork Airport. Picture: Brian Lougheed

Ms Naughton lauded the team at Cork Airport, who she said had been “unwavering in their focus on recovery and building a successful future for Cork Airport”.

“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 Schiphol from next week,” she continued.

She also welcomed Ryanair’s announcement in recent months of a $200m (€177m) investment in Cork Airport and a full recovery of its pre-pandemic passenger capacity with the reopening of its two-aircraft base.

Ms Naughton said that exchequer supports for the airport would continue into 2022.

Delivery of the works 

More than 430 people were employed by the main contractor Colas Ltd, daa’s integrated delivery partner Bechtel, and multiple subcontractors — including Atmac Construction, Atkins (a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group), Brooklyn Engineering Services, FLI Carlow, and Lagan Asphalt Group — on the project management, engineering, design, and construction of the runway to complete the project on time.

Pictured on the new runway at Cork Airport are Brian Culloty, (left) head of airside infrastructure and resident engineer, Cork Airport, and David Fraser, project director, Colas, main contractors.
Pictured on the new runway at Cork Airport are Brian Culloty, (left) head of airside infrastructure and resident engineer, Cork Airport, and David Fraser, project director, Colas, main contractors.

In addition to rebuilding the main runway, upgrade works to the airport’s approach, airfield and ground lighting; runway edge and centreline lighting; and all its drainage and ducting systems have been completed.

Colas chief executive Carl Fergusson said the company was proud to have been involved in delivering “such a landmark, large-scale reconstruction”.

He praised the collaborative effort of all involved and the “team spirit” shown by everyone during the project.

Colas Ireland chief executive Gearoid Lohan said that the daa and Cork Airport deserved great credit for taking “the courageous decision to close the airport to deliver this major project”.

The 'right decision'

Speaking to The Echo, Cork Airport managing director Niall MacCarthy was resolute in his conviction that closing the airport entirely for 10 weeks was the “right decision”.

“It was cheaper, it was safer, it was faster,” Mr MacCarthy said.

“Next year is going to be a much bigger year, so we didn’t want to be closed every night for 12 months next year — no late flights, close at 10, no early flights.

“It was a case of short-term pain, long-term gain.”

In total, daa is investing over €40m at Cork Airport between 2020 and 2022 to upgrade and enhance critical infrastructure.

As part of this capital programme, Cork Airport is investing in the construction of a new electrical sub-station early next year.

Bishop Fintan Gavin, Bishop of Cork & Ross (right) and Bishop Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne & Ross, Church of Ireland performing a blessing at the opening ceremony.
Bishop Fintan Gavin, Bishop of Cork & Ross (right) and Bishop Paul Colton, Bishop of Cork, Cloyne & Ross, Church of Ireland performing a blessing at the opening ceremony.

The airport has stated that these investment projects have sustainability and green energy efficiency as a priority.

The electrical upgrade will reduce the runway electrical carbon footprint by 70%.

Cork Airport has also recently completed a more than €12m upgrade of its hold baggage security screening system to ensure that checked-in baggage complies with the latest and highest international standards.

At the airport’s opening ceremony on Saturday, the reconstructed runway was blessed by Bishop of Cork and Ross Fintan Gavin, and Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross Paul Colton.

The first flight out off the revamped runway was this morning’s 7.45am flight to London Heathrow.

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