Minister for Transport Shane Ross has questioned whether the €70m increase in the cost of constructing a second parallel runway at Dublin Airport is "justified".
The Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) announced earlier this week that it expects works on the new 3.1km runway to commence next summer and gave an estimated cost of €320m – some €70m more than currently approved in higher airport charges by the Commission for Aviation Regulation.
Ross admitted that the DAA had not convinced him the increase made sense, echoing Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary's criticism that the the escalating cost was "nonsense".
“Michael O’Leary has a point," Ross said. "I have met the DAA about this. I think the initial cost for that was €250m and it appears it has gone up by about €70m.
“I am not yet satisfied that it is justified. I think we need to be absolutely certain about it before we go ahead. It is a pretty rapid rise and this is a huge development which will be examined carefully.
“I always had an unease about state monopolies, so we have to be very careful as to how they spend our money.”
Having issued a tender document inviting bids to design and build the north runway, the DAA is hoping that a contract will be awarded in April 2017, meaning work could begin by the end of June. The runway is expected to be completed in 2020.
According to the Irish Examiner, a DAA spokesman said of the Transport Minister's comments:
“The estimated €250m runway costs outlined in 2014 by the Commission for Aviation Regulation (CAR), which regulates Dublin Airport, were based on 2013 construction prices.
“Earlier this year, the DAA estimated that the overall runway project could cost about €320m. The reasons for the change are a combination of construction price inflation and scope changes.
A number of elements such as a new satellite fire station and an engine testing area were not included in the original costing of the project, but are required to meet planning conditions, safety requirements and to maximise the efficiency of the new runway.
“As the runway project is currently at tender stage, the market will determine the cost, based on an open EU procurement process. What is planned from DAA’s perspective is a low-cost, highly functional runway, which will cater for all users for decades to come.
"To put the potential cost of the runway in context, the cost of a new runway in the south-east of England has been estimated at several billion pounds.”