Work is likely to begin on Dublin Airport's new runway by the end of next June after its owner, DAA, formally sought bids for the €320 million project on Monday.
The airport manager issued a tender document inviting bids to design and build the new north runway that the State company announced earlier this year.
DAA hopes to award the contract and issue a commencement notice to the successful bidder in April 2017. This means that work could begin by the end of the first half of next year. It is expected to be finished in 2020.
The document breaks the work down into two phases. The first stage involves the construction of the runway itself and of its associated taxiways. That will then have to be tied in to existing runways and taxiways and provided with electrics, navigation instruments and lighting, a weather station, fire station and various other facilities.
DAA estimated earlier this year that it would cost €320 million to build, more than the €250 million figure allowed by the Commission for Aviation Regulation in 2014.
Subject to meeting the criteria outlined in the tender document, the company will choose the cheapest bid, so there is a possibility that it could cost more, or less, than the €320 million estimate.
Dublin Airport hosted a record 25 million travellers last year and its performance in recent months indicates 2016 is likely to overtake that. The growth means that its facilities are under increasing pressure and there is increasing speculation that it may have to begin planning for a third terminal in the coming years.
Just two years ago, it was not expected to reach the 25 million passenger trigger point for the new runway until some time in the next decade.
An Bórd Pleanála granted planning permission for the new runway in 2007 but subject it to conditions limiting night flights at the airport to 65. DAA wants that restriction lifted as the current figure is already 99 flights and that is expected to grow. Its busiest period falls partly within the 11pm to 7am timeframe covered by the limit.
One of the arguments put forward by DAA is that aircraft are now less noisy. It is also offering to buy houses in the areas closest to the new runway and to pay for noise insulation in a number of others.
It has already held talks with residents’ groups about the possible environmental impact of its plans. DAA has yet to decide how it is going to seek to have the conditions changed.
St Margarets and the Ward communities, which are located next to where the new runway will be built, warned yesterday that they wanted the conditions honoured.
“As residents, we fully support the construction of the runway and we also fully support all of the conditions which An Bórd Pleanála put in place to protect the residents who live beside the runway and under the flight paths,” they said.
Locals point out that restrictions on night-time flights are common elsewhere in Europe. They apply to both Heathrow and Gatwick. The groups also argue that there is independent research to show that night-time flights are not as necessary as airports claim.