Delivery of Dublin airport's North Runway will enable a 30% increase in connectivity, which will support an extra 31,200 jobs and €2.2bn of economic activity, writes John Heffernan

Dublin airport plays a pivotal role in the Irish economy, supporting 117,300 jobs and contributing €8.3 billion in economic value in 2016 alone, representing 3.1 per cent of Ireland’s total GDP. As an island nation competing in a globalised marketplace, our connectivity with the rest of the world is critical to Ireland’s economic wellbeing, and Dublin airport is a driving force in the growth of tourism, trade and foreign direct investment into the country.

North Runway footprint

Facilitating future growth for Dublin airport and for Ireland

Dublin airport facilitates 4,500 flights per week by 47 airlines to more than 180 destinations in more than 40 countries on four continents. Traffic grew by almost 1.7 million in the last year alone, resulting in a record-breaking 29.6 million passengers passing through the airport in 2017.

The runway is now full for most of the operational day and extra capacity is urgently needed. The delivery of North Runway will enable a 30 per cent increase in connectivity which will support an extra 31,200 jobs and a further €2.2 billion of economic activity.

Years of careful planning

North Runway has featured in successive Local Area and County Development Plans since the 1970s. Through excellent foresight and careful planning, the land for this development was safeguarded more than 40 years ago, and approaches have been kept largely clear of development.

This means that the number of impacted residents is far lower than at other European capital city airports. For example, using 2014 data, there are fewer than 500 houses inside the 60dbLday contour at Dublin airport compared with more than 45,000 at Heathrow.

Dublin, above, and Heathrow, below

We are nevertheless very mindful of our neighbours. As part of the north runway’s planning permission, a residential house insulation scheme, a voluntary house purchase scheme and an insulation scheme for eligible schools have been put in place to mitigate against the impact of Dublin airport’s operations on local communities.

The eligibility of a particular household is predicated on the extent of aircraft noise to which it is exposed. Thresholds, expressed as noise contours measured in decibels, were determined at the time of the grant of planning and are consistent with those used at airports across the world – 63dB being commonly used as a threshold for house insulation, with a 60dB limit for schools, and 69dB for the voluntary house purchase scheme.

Value for money

The projected cost of €320 million for North Runway represents real value for money, particularly when compared with other similar projects in the UK which do not benefit from full development within their own landbanks.

Heathrow, for example, is currently at the pre-planning phase for a 3,500m third runway. At an estimated total cost of £16 billion, this project also includes terminal construction, road, rail and other infrastructure development.

On a like-for-like comparison, the runway and ancillary systems account for €8 billion, while a similar suite of works is being delivered for four per cent of that cost at Dublin.

The project

North Runway will be located 1,690m to the north and parallel to the existing main 10/28 runway. It will be capable of handling all aircraft types up to Code F aircraft. To meet this operational brief, the runway will be 3,110m long and 75m wide with a parallel taxiway located to the south connected into the existing taxiway network.

Surfacing during road construction

North Runway will be equipped with Category III B instrument landing and airfield ground lighting systems which will facilitate automatic landing in almost all low visibility conditions. In addition to the runway and associated systems, the scope includes a satellite firefighting station to provide emergency coverage required to meet international standards.

Given the location of the runway, much of the construction will be delivered landside (outside the security restricted area) which will lead to greater productivity and predictability of programme.

One of the main challenges will, however, be integrating the runway into the existing infrastructure including links into taxiway networks, electrical and control systems, and IAA (Irish Aviation Authority) and Met Éireann navigational and meteorological systems. Additionally, the operational teams from the airport and air traffic control will have to plan the efficient operational use of the two-runway campus.

The project will be delivered through two main packages, the first broadly focused on site clearance and road construction, and the second covering construction of the runway, taxiways and ancillary works.

Construction Package 1

Construction Package 1 commenced in December 2016 and was completed 12 months later. This phase of the project involved the diversion of the Naul Road and comprised the construction of a 2.5km single 8m wide carriageway including a new priority junction and spur roads.

Additionally, a second section of the Naul Road required realignment which involved the construction of a 900m single 8m wide carriageway and the installation of a new priority junction.

Two new airfield viewing areas were also constructed in addition to the erection of more than 14km of fencing. Package 1 also included site clearance, tree and hedgerow removal and replanting, installation of a new 200mm water main and relocation of a local monument.

Excavation works during Construction Package 1

The Environmental Protection Plan that was developed for the project included, among other elements, extensive archaeological site investigations with an average of 17 archaeologists on site per week for the duration of the project; ecological surveys of badgers, bats and other species and provision of alternative locations as required; environmental management including air, noise and water monitoring, traffic management, road sweeping and dust suppression.

The reuse of excavated earth on site and environmental recycling of site byproducts was also a key feature, with initiatives such as wood from site clearance being donated to local communities and woodchip used for off-site power generation.

As per planning permission and as agreed with Fingal County Council the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) is providing eight hectares (20 acres) of compensatory habitat at Thornton Hall in north county Dublin to offset the necessary removal of hedgerows and trees.

The design of this habitat will reflect as far as possible that of the original airport site and include a range of habitats to compensate for the necessary loss at North Runway’s location.

More than 400 staff were engaged in Construction Package 1, working more than 120,000 hours with out-of-hours activity accounting for only six days. Safety and security is a key focus at the DAA and it is worth noting that there were no lost-time incidents by either the DAA or the main contractor, Roadbridge.

Construction Package 2

The second package covers the detailed design, construction, testing, commissioning and completion of the 3,110m runway, taxiways and associated infrastructure, all of which will be based on a 30-year design life.

It includes the isolation, demolition and removal of all redundant services within the site, including the removal of the airport’s original 11/29 runway and relocation of the Engine Test Site, ensuring optimisation of material re-use at all times.

Laying of services ducting

The package also includes surface water and land drainage and treatments; all electrical infrastructure, instrument landing systems and navigational aid infrastructure; airport fencing, gates, perimeter road and signage, and ancillary works.

The tendering process for this package is well advanced, and following appointment of the successful bidder, construction is scheduled to commence towards the end of 2018.

Operation of the north runway

North Runway is scheduled to be commissioned in 2021. When fully operational, together with the existing main runway, it will operate in segregated mode most of the time, i.e. one runway for arrivals, and the other for departures.

There will be occasions during peak hours when the runways will need to operate in mixed mode, that is, both runways used simultaneously for arrivals and for departures.

In addition to maximising the use of the runways in this manner, the DAA is also seeking to amend two of the 31 planning conditions which restrict the growth potential of Dublin airport.

There are circa 100 flights at Dublin airport between 2300 and 0700 hours. The two planning conditions in question would prohibit the use of North Runway and limit total aircraft movements for the entire airport to 65 during these hours.

Archaeological trenches on North Runway’s site

These restrictions will constrain the growth of short-haul based-aircraft which will require 0600 hours departures and late-evening arrivals and will curtail the development of long-haul services (e.g. transatlantic routes) requiring early-morning arrivals (typically from 0500 hours).

In addition, opportunities to create further flight connections and develop Dublin airport as a hub will be severely impacted, resulting in forecasted growth constraints of 2.5 million passengers upon the opening of the runway, rising to six million by 2037, with a cumulative loss of 78 million passengers in that period alone.

Dublin airport is adopting a twin-track approach comprising construction and then, separately, seeking to amend the existing restrictive planning conditions. In the interim, the project is progressing apace, and we look forward to our first north runway flight in 2021.

Author: John Heffernan joined the DAA in 2014 as chief development officer. He is currently responsible for corporate strategy, master planning and group development. Major projects include the delivery of the north runway, the construction of the new airport city concept: Dublin Airport Central, and the planning and delivery of the DAA’s capital investment programmes and Dublin and Cork airports. He joined the DAA from Clearpower Limited, a leading bioenergy business in the UK and Ireland, where he was founder and managing director. He previously worked as an acquisition manager with Boundary Capital (2005 – 2006); development director with Arnotts (2003 – 2005) and he spent eight years with McKinsey. O'RiordanCivilMissedcivil,construction,Dublin Airport Authority
Dublin airport plays a pivotal role in the Irish economy, supporting 117,300 jobs and contributing €8.3 billion in economic value in 2016 alone, representing 3.1 per cent of Ireland’s total GDP. As an island nation competing in a globalised marketplace, our connectivity with the rest of the world is...