Vincent Harrison

Managing Director, Dublin Airport

Vincent Harrison is the managing director of Dublin airport. He gave us a brief snapshot of the expansion plans for the airport over the next seven years, with a €2.5 billion investment in infrastructure.

When building the second terminal at Dublin Airport, what were the specific challenges you faced in managing a project of this scale?

I will start with financing, whilst we are independent of annual state capital budgeting, we are entirely self-funded through our own activities. Whilst we aren’t bound by annual state budgets which is good, we have to manage our capability within our own resources.

Secondly, with both our customers, passengers and a wide range of stakeholders, we need to engage and plan for long term capital projects around different needs and different business models. Within the environment we are in we need to develop plans that our customers want to buy into and have the confidence that they are prepared to grow their businesses in Ireland. We must not lose sight of this at is underpins the viability of our future.

In terms of cooperating with the government, be that locally or nationally, around large-scale infrastructure projects, do you face any difficulties here?

The planning environment in Ireland is complex and also appears to be under resourced to address the many requirements for infrastructural investment that we face as a country. Additionally, unlike many developments of a stand alone nature, the airport is an evolving system - constantly changing to meet evolving demands, different aircraft types and new passenger requirements. Infrastructure is also developed over time and needs to be flexible to meet demands over a 40-50 year horizon.

This requires a master plan as a guide to the future but one which can be adapted over time. The airport itself is of the scale of a small city and needs to develop holistically, however the planning environment is one which is more designed toward discrete planning applications and decisions on development on a piecemeal basis. There are many bodies involved in the planning process and this of course can lead to lengthy delivery timelines.

What are the wider advantages for Dublin and Ireland of having an increased capacity at the airport?

Terminal 2 opened in 2010. In the period prior to its opening air traffic declined substantially and the requirement for this capacity was publicly questioned. However, traffic growth rebounded and from 2014-2018 growth of over 50% was experienced. At a national level, the impact of Dublin airport is 3.1% GDP, and Dublin Airport facilitates 139,700 jobs in the Republic of Ireland. And obviously when the economy does well, the airport does well and vice versa.

Do you think that the right additional infrastructure and policy is currently in place to allow Ireland to grow for the future?

Certainly, public transport hasn’t been invested in enough. The plans to have a metro between the city and Dublin airport and beyond have been reactivated now, but they had been held dormant for ten years when arguably that was the time to invest.

There is a lot of focus on housing right now, rightly because we have a housing shortage, but it is almost as though that agenda takes all the oxygen out of everything else. However, we are looking two or three years ahead when the houses are built but without the transport infrastructure around them. If I had a criticism of policy in general it is a lack of integrate

The planning environment in Ireland is complex and also appears to be under resourced to address the many requirements for infrastructural investment that we face as a country.