DUBLIN Airport may need a third terminal just two years after the second passenger facility comes on stream in 2010.
A new report, commissioned by businessman Ulick McEvaddy who wants to build a third terminal on land he owns to the west of the existing terminal, shows that up to 32 million people a year could be using the airport by 2012.
That could mean another terminal would be needed to avoid the huge queues which have dogged the airport for years.
The report analyses projected-traffic data provided by the Dublin Airport Authority and compares it with actual traffic through the airport. It warns that unless planning for the third terminal begins soon, the airport faces years of congestion and traffic chaos.
"This paper provides numerical evidence that the Government must, as a matter of urgency, begin the process to build a third terminal at Dublin Airport," it says. "Failure to do so will ensure that chaotic passenger and road congestion will continue well into the later years of the next decade."
An analysis of passenger numbers through the airport shows that numbers have been 'widely underestimated' for many years.
In 2004, the 'high-growth' scenario suggested that 16.6 million people would use the airport. The actual number was 17.138 million. The following year, the high-growth scenario said 17.5 million would use the facility, but 18.45 million people passed through the airport.
Last week, the Dublin Airport Authority revealed that 2.4 million people travelled through the airport in August -- an increase of 9pc on last year. The report notes that forecasts are 'significantly incapable' of allowing any party to 'strategically plan' for future capacity.
An Bord Pleanala, in its grant of planning permission for the second terminal known as T2, has put a cap of 32 million people using the facility. The report warns that unless passenger growth collapses, this cap will be reached between 2011-2013.
"In late 1995, Aer Rianta (now the Dublin Airport Authority) provided a written position on proposals for the development of a second commercial airport for Dublin. Speaking on passenger capacity, they declared that that forecast was to grow to 14 million by 2005 -- they underestimated by an amazing 4,450,439 passengers," it says.
"Some 10 years later -- 2005, it appears that the Authority's ability to forecast continues to be their 'Achilles heel' in that they will have underestimated the 2007 traffic by approximately 2.5 million passengers."
It continues that both Ryanair and Aer Lingus continue to pursue 'significant growth strategies', and that transatlantic airlines will be attracted to Dublin Airport due to congestion in other airports including Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle. A second runway, which has also been granted planning permission, will add to the attractiveness of the airport.
"Taking an upbeat terminal construction project completion augury of between 3 and 5 years will mean that if we are to avoid the mistakes of the past, we need to begin the project no later than the first quarter of 2008," it concludes.
But the Dublin Airport Authority said that while its forecasts had underestimated passenger growth in the past, there was no need for a third terminal until 'at least' 2014/2015.
"It's all a question of timing," a spokesperson said. "There's no dispute that Dublin Airport will need a third terminal.
"There has been a huge bubble of growth in Dublin, principally driven by Ryanair's decision to expand. The economy is slowing down, and the airlines are unlikely to expand.
"If passenger traffic were to grow by our higher forecasts, we expect to need a third terminal by 2014/2015. Lower forecasts would see it needed by 2018.
"There is no need to plan a third terminal until T2 is open in 2010."