Radar and settlement problems at Ronaldsway

Isle of Man Airport

Isle of Man Airport

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Problems involving the multi-million pound improvements at Ronaldsway airport were revealed in Tynwald.

Infrastructure Minister David Cretney MHK confirmed there had been some settlement in grassed areas of the runway promontory - and the UK regulator has yet to sign off approvals for the new radar system.

Replying to a question from Peter Karran (Lib Van, Onchan), Mr Cretney said: ‘I have been made aware there has been some settlement in the grassed areas to the south of the main runway within the promontory area, which was to be expected with a civil engineering project of the scale we undertook in 2008 to 2010.’

He said the areas of settlement are being monitored regularly, both locally and by the main contractor Balfour Beatty and their designer, to ‘ensure the integrity of the structure’.

But he insisted the areas affected were well away from the runway itself and were causing no operational problems. He said Balfour Beatty would be responsible for making good any remedial works.

Mr Karran pointed out that £26m of taxpayers’ money had been spent on the promontory extension.

There have been problems, too, with the £3.4m replacement radar system, the first of its kind to be used in the British Isles.

Mr Cretney explained the old radar was still having to be used as the replacement one had yet to be granted a full operation licence.

He told the court: ‘The work involved in the installation of the new secondary radar and replacement primary radar has not been without its challenges.’

The Minister said there were three very distinct groups involved in the project - the UK regulator overseeing the engineering and safety documentation, the UK arm of contractor Selex, and the contractor’s Italian arm which did all the engineering and technology for both installation and documentation.

He said: ‘The new radars are fully operational and have been for some considerable time.

‘However, the amount of observations and evidence required to secure approvals for a brand new system, being the first in the British Isles for airport use, have been far greater and more detailed than could have been foreseen.’

Mr Cretney said he expected the observations to be completed in mid-2014 when a full operational licence, rather than a temporary one, could be granted.

Listing the problems, he cited documentation issues surrounding language, format and understanding of the UK regulatory process, complexity of flight trials, internal issues with Selex UK and Italy and the sheer volume of observations required. He said there had been issues of access, ownership and lease arrangements concerning the 19 radar sites around the island.

Treasury member Phil Braidwood MLC pointed out the problems concerned the primary radar not the secondary radar which he said was working well.

Juan Turner MLC asked why the old radar was still operating when it was ‘out of licence’.

Mr Cretney replied that its licence had been extended because of the problems with the new radar.

But Mr Karran asked: ‘Why do we keep having these situations? Will these people be held to account to justify their fees?’

Mr Cretney replied: ‘Of course, they will be held to account.’ He said that he was not convinced that it had been the right route to follow in installing a radar that was the first of its type in the British Isles.

The radar project was approved by Tynwald in 2010. Since 2008, the airport has spent £37m on the runway extension, £6.5m on a new air traffic control tower, £3m to upgrade aircraft taxiways, £3.4m to replace the radar system, £628,000 on a new perimeter fence and £3m on a new baggage handling and screening facility.

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