€12 million in private sector investment by Comer Group International in partnership with the Bolster Group has been confirmed, to develop the runway extension at Waterford Airport.
The significant development now clears the way for the business plan seeking matching funding to be submitted to the Department of Transport, which is expected to be sent early next week.
Minister for Finance, Michael McGrath TD and Mr. Bolster are addressing the media at present at City Hall, Waterford.
It’s understood that Waterford Airport has already initiated project work for a new runway extension as it seeks to restart scheduled commercial services.
Waterford Airport opened in 1981 with its first scheduled flight four years later by Ryanair.
Ten years ago, it was reported that a €150m extension of the runway would be funded by the Department of Transport.
Various airlines used the airport, but in June 2016, VLM ended its London/Luton service, leaving Waterford Airport since then without any scheduled traffic.
Last year, planning permission was granted for a runway extension and associated works but private sector investment had been slow in arriving.
A multi-pronged investment aiming to develop up to €30 million has been agreed by Comer Group International.
Waterford Airport’s expansion is Comer’s first large investment in the South-East of Ireland.
Around half of the overall sum comes from the deal with the Comer Group, led by Waterford based investor and business leader William Bolster.
The investment means the remainder can now be sought from a process to begin with central and local government funding.
Construction, flooring, and engineering firm Bolster Group has been driving forward the development of Waterford Airport since commercial flights last operated from the site in 2016.
Company executives say the deal represents a major vote of confidence in Waterford and will create jobs and boost economic growth.
The investment will be announced at an event attended today by Finance Minister Michael McGrath TD.
The new runway will have the capacity to service large and mid-range airliners such as the widely used Airbus 320s.
It will see Summer and Winter holiday destinations across Europe being linked to Waterford, capital of Ireland’s South-East.
London is set to be the first destination as early as the end of 2024 with others to follow.
Waterford Airport is the only airport located in the South-East of Ireland.
The airport opened its doors in 1985 with Ryanair’s inaugural flight departing for London Gatwick. It serves as a base for the Irish Coastguard helicopter Search and Rescue service.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “This significant private investment is hugely important for Waterford and the South East region. An extended runway would really help to boost the whole region’s international connectivity, benefitting both Irish and international passengers for years to come."
“I’ve been a long supporter of Waterford Airport since my time as Minister for Transport and as Taoiseach. The previous Government made the decision to match funding for the runway project once the private investment was secured, albeit at a lower level of €5 million. As I said recently in Waterford, the principle of matched funding remains, subject to the business case being agreed. Further Exchequer funding will be required, and I urge all parties to progress the business case as soon as possible."
“The Government and I strongly believe that balanced regional development is good for the country as whole. We want every part of the country to share in our prosperity and securing good jobs and investment is one of the most effective ways of doing that. Improved connectivity through Waterford Airport would make the South East an even more attractive place in which to live, work, do business and raise a family. It would also help to open up this beautiful region to many more visitors.”
In a joint statement, Comer Group Director Luke Comer and William Bolster, Executive of Waterford Airport said: “We are delighted to announce the runway expansion, which will reopen up travel to the UK and European destinations all year round. Those local to the area have had to travel to Dublin or Cork to catch flights over the last seven years and the time absolutely felt right to bring the airport back to life with much needed investment and put Waterford firmly back on the international map."
“We believe this expansion will be welcome news for locals, driving tourism and business opportunities, as well as the Irish population who have made their home in the UK.
“It will be a real game changer in terms of bringing back travel to the region”.
Finance Minister Michael McGrath TD said: “I welcome today’s announcement of additional private investment in Waterford airport. An extension to the runway would make the South East an increasingly attractive destination for both leisure and business travelers from overseas. Similarly, it will make it easier for people across the region to travel internationally.
"This has the potential to boost economic growth in the region in the decade ahead and complement significant investment already planned for Waterford including in urban regeneration and the South East Technological University.”
Minister of State, who covers aviation, Jack Chambers says, “I welcome the announcement today of private investment. I recognise the positive impact that this could have for both Waterford Airport and the wider South East region as a whole. I await further detail in relation to the airport’s development proposal, which I understand will be submitted to my Department shortly.”
Michael Walsh, Chief Executive of Waterford City & County Council said: “This is a monumental moment for Ireland’s oldest city. I pay tribute to the investors who have a clear vision for the future of the airport. Thanks to their vision and drive and subject to the agreement of the Council, Government and the shareholders, Waterford Airport can look forward to a bright future.”
Dan Browne, the Chairman of Waterford Airport added:“This is a real vote of confidence by all concerned in the local area and a step forward in terms of local economic success as well as bringing up tourism numbers. It will serve the people of Waterford, and beyond, incredibly well and we look forward to welcoming increased numbers of passengers, and flights, through our doors”.