Rival Glasgow airport chief says scrap subsidy for Prestwick

24.12.2009 (Glasgow Herald)
by Brian Currie, Political Editor

Glasgow Airport’s managing director has launched an outspoken attack on the "unfair
and anti- ­competitive subsidy" given to its main rival.

Amanda McMillan says the Government money that funds the rail link to Prestwick
must be scrapped as it benefits Ryanair, the airport’s main carrier, at the expense
of other airlines.

Ms McMillan also says the Scottish Government must restore the air route development
fund and do more to support all of Scotland’s airports as they compete against
other European countries that are being given greater protection by their governments.

She says cash-strapped ministers could divert money saved from supporting Prestwick’s
rail line to the development fund.   Currently, the terms of the ScotRail franchise
set by the Government means passengers who have an air ticket to Prestwick receive
a discount.

Glasgow Airport is owned by Britian’s biggest airport operators, Spanish-owned
BAA, while Prestwick is owned by Infratil Airports Europe.

Writing in The Herald today, Ms McMillan predicts a bright future for Glasgow
Airport including a multi-million-pound boost to be announced in the near future.

However, she warns that the air route development fund, which was scrapped two years ago,
must be restored if Scotland is not to be left behind other European countries
including small ones such as Cyprus.

She says: "Scotland must act quickly if it is to stand any chance of competing
in Europe.   Scottish ministers tell us there is no money.   Why not start by scrapping
the public subsidy, through ScotRail, of the Prestwick Airport rail link?   This
unfair and anti-competitive subsidy provides free or discounted fares for anyone
travelling with ScotRail to Prestwick.

Ms McMillan’s call for the reintroduction of the route development fund was supported
by Graeme Sweenie, Prestwick’s chief commercial officer. He said it would be a
"significant catalyst in bringing new routes and visitors to Scotland".

He added: "However, I am disappointed that Amanda should criticise our rail link.
At a time when Scotland is struggling to attract visitors, the last thing we want
to do is make it difficult for them to get to their onward destinations."

The re-introduction of an air route development fund was also supported by Labour
transport spokesman Charlie Gordon, who called for investment in Scotland’s airports.
"Scotland deserves a 21st-century transport network," he said.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "ScotRail is required to offer discounts
for train transport to Prestwick Airport for those with a flight booking to encourage
use of rail to access flights, particularly for new routes. Any change to this
arrangement would run counter to Government policy to encourage passengers to
make greater use of sustainable transport."

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