THE GOVERNMENT is not in a position to reverse any decision on cuts to regional airports, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar has said.
However, the Minister said that Dublin city’s successful bike-sharing scheme may be extended to Galway and other regional cities.
Mr Varadkar was speaking in Galway yesterday, where he held meetings with Galway harbour and airport boards, and initiated plans for Galway’s bike week, which will be held as part of National Bike Week from June 18th to 26th. Asked about the future of Galway harbour and Galway airport, Mr Varadkar said the public service obligation subsidy on regional air routes – which was removed by the last government – would not be reinstated.
“The financial situation is very tough, and the money that was allotted to regional airports in the last budget was cut by 50 per cent essentially,” he said.
“The Government is not in a position to reverse any of the cuts in the last budget, so really it is a case of teasing out with the regional airports how they are going to bear those cuts.”
While he said he believed it was a “plus” to have an airport in a city like Galway, the road link between Dublin and Galway had improved considerably and this was one of the reasons for removing the subsidy.
It would “not be reinstated”, he said.
Asked about his plans for rationalising smaller ports, Mr Varadkar said he would regard Galway as being in the “medium-sized” category.
He was aware the harbour had “very ambitious plans” which he was interested to hear about – but could not yet endorse.
The harbour company, which is due to host the finish for the 2011-2012 Volvo Ocean Race, has prepared a strategic infrastructure application for a deepwater port, which it hopes to submit to An Bord Pleanála.
Speaking about National Bike Week, Mr Varadkar said cycling was a “key priority” in his department as a “sustainable, healthy and low-carbon means of travel”.
The success of Dublin’s bike-sharing scheme was such that he was in favour of extending it to regional cities such as Galway, in co-operation with local authorities.
“There is a provision in the programme for government for this,” he said, and Galway was “exactly the type of city” where the scheme would work very well.