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Cork Airport shuts for runway rebuild — with the promise that it will reopen on time

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Cork Airport shuts for runway rebuild — with the promise that it will reopen on time

Cork Airport shuts for runway rebuild — with the promise that it will reopen on time
September 13
15:57 2021

The project will start on time, and will finish on time — that was the promise from Cork Airport bosses last night as it shut down for 10 weeks for the complete rebuild of its main runway.

“Airlines have flights scheduled to operate from Cork from November 22, aircraft and crew will have to be repositioned in advance, so we are confident that the runway will be ready on time,” airport spokesman Kevin Cullinane said.

It is understood that financial penalties have been built into the contract to safeguard against potential delays.

The airport terminal shut down to passengers just after 9pm last night, following the departure of an empty Aer Lingus aircraft for repositioning to Shannon. The Cork terminal and its only jet-capable runway were then recategorised as outside the ‘critical part of the security restricted area’ to give the contractors, Colas, “unimpeded possession of the main runway”.

The terminal building will remain closed to passengers, although car hire desks will remain open for drop-offs. All other concessions have closed.

Most of the airport’s 180 staff have been redeployed to other duties. Its security staff will control access to the site. Its electricians and asset care staff will be involved in the construction project, but retail staff have been asked to take annual leave.

Also, 15 staff at OCS who are involved in baggage screening and who help people with reduced mobility, are being laid off for the entire duration of the closure.

The Irish Aviation Authority has given specific approval for the airport to continue supporting garda helicopter, medevac helicopter and search and rescue helicopter operations, and the airport will retain appropriate fire and emergency cover to support these operations.

The main runway, which has been in operation since 1961, was built 1,883m long, and was extended by 300m in 1989. An overlay project in 1999 was done on the original runway only, which means the pavement on this area is 21 years old, while the extension is 31 years old.

The airport released an online video last week with close-up shots showing cracks in the runway surface, underlining the need for the work. 

This will involve the full structural reconstruction of the runway, an upgrading of aircraft ground lighting to energy-efficient LEDs, the installation of runway edge and centreline lighting, the replacement of secondary cabling and transformers, the construction of a new electrical pit and duct system, upgrading of primary electrical circuits in place since the 1980s, and the construction of a new electricity substation to provide backup for the current substation.

Colas workers are expected to start the main demolition work on the runway on Thursday, and work round the clock for the next 10 weeks. However, airport managers have again faced criticism about the timing of the works.

Pat Dawson, chief executive of the Irish Travel Agents Association, said the work should have been done during the summer when passenger numbers were decimated by 99%.

“It’s an awful shame it wasn’t done sooner,” he said.

“We were told it couldn’t. And we have to take that on face value, that it couldn’t be helped, but Shannon will gain some of what Cork has lost. 

He said Cork will need financial supports to rebuild its route network and to ensure a better spread of airlines at the regional airports.

However, the airport’s managing director, Niall MacCarthy, said the runway rebuild, which was planned to take place in 2022, has been fast-tracked.

“The reconstruction of the main runway will be the fastest large-scale construction project undertaken in the State in recent years — 12 months from funding approval to the completion of the main works — encompassing EU tendering, design, regulatory approvals, and construction,” he said.

Mr Cullinane said if the project was done next year, as was initially planned, when passenger numbers are forecast to recover to 1.5m, it would have taken 10 months to complete and caused disruption to an estimated 150,000 passengers.

Doing the work now in a short 10-week window will disrupt about 20,000 passengers, he said, and it will truncate an already quiet summer season by a few weeks, and delay winter schedules by just a few weeks, he added.

The closure has meant the Atlantic Flight Training Academy will operate its training flights out of Waterford, Sligo, and Shannon, but its flight simulator training and its full-time lectures will not be affected.

At the height of lockdown, Cork Airport had just two routes — London Heathrow and Amsterdam. Since international travel resumed in mid-July, airlines had reintroduced flights to 20 routes across Europe.

Source: Irish Examiner

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