Clare Fine Gael TD, Joe Carey has challenged Shannon Airport management to take full advantage of the newly established route development fund announced in Tuesday’s budget.

Deputy Carey said that the measure announced in Budget 2020 could play a major role in the establishment of a vital connection from Shannon to Frankfurt that would bring a €412 million boost to the Mid-West and West regions.

“We can’t afford to let this opportunity slip and there is an onus on the Shannon Group to ensure that the airport gets the full benefit of this new funding initiative. The fund of €2.5m will be made available to Airports outside of Dublin on a competitive basis to develop key routes. This fund will grow to €10m over the next three years so it’s a significant development which we must harnessed for the benefit of the entire Mid-West and West Region.

He said that much of the groundwork to support the project was already in place following publication of a major report by Danish international consultancy group Copenhagen Economics which concluded that aviation and enterprise policy must be linked if the Government is to deliver on its policy of achieving balanced regional development.

“Having worked with the Taoiseach to achieve Shannon’s independence from the Dublin Airport Authority during his term as Transport Minister, I have made it clear to him that it is essential that the Government supports this report in the interests of balanced regional development,” he said.

“Shannon Airport currently adds up to €3.6 billion to Ireland’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and supports 43,700 jobs. Around 1.7 million passengers travel through Shannon on around 13,000 flights. This implies that at peak periods, only 45 percent of the capacity at the airport is utilised.

This spare capacity offers untapped potential to deliver balanced regional development without requiring new investments. It would also alleviate the pressure on Dublin and reduce the need for costly infrastructure spending.

The Copenhagen report concluded that if Shannon was to establish a frequent route to Frankfurt Airport with two flights every weekday and one flight on the weekend it would generate an additional €412 million in GDP.

Governmental support for this route could be warranted as part of the implementation of the regional spatial and economic strategy for the Southern region, where international financial services are an integral part of the smart specialisation and clustering strategy.

Strengthening and internationalising the financial clusters in the West and Mid-West would ensure the sustainability of the route in the long-term.

The Copenhagen Economics report recommends a range of government supports and interventions amid concerns about the regional impact and the dominance of Dublin Airport at the expense of other Irish airports.

“Passenger numbers at Shannon have increased by more than 460,000 since 2012, when Shannon became an independent entity. In that same period, Dublin Airport increased its passenger numbers by 12.4 million and Cork by 52,000.

“Spreading just 20 per cent of that growth across the regions would still leave Dublin with 10 million additional passengers and the regions with an additional 2.5 million which would deliver a far greater economic impact,” Deputy Carey explained

“I fully support the conclusion that initiatives to make the West and Mid-West attractive places to live and do business will also improve the business case for airlines to scale up in Shannon Airport.

“Along with making the case for subventing the Frankfurt service, there is also a responsibility on the management team at Shannon to ensure their operations and infrastructure continue to be efficient. They should also explore additional revenue opportunities in the area of cargo traffic,” Deputy Carey concluded.