Scrap north-south Wales air route call by Lib Dems

27.1.2010   (BBC)

The company operating the north to south Wales air route says it hopes to restart
online bookings.

While flights continued, Highland Airways had suspended online booking after
confirming that it was facing “difficult trading” conditions.

But Liberal Democrats want the twice-daily Anglesey-Cardiff flights scrapped,
and its public subsidy used on “green public transport”.

The service has £800,000 a year funding from the Welsh Assembly Government.

“It is now time to end this costly debacle before even more public money is poured
into a service that is both economically and environmentally unsustainable,” said
Kirsty Williams, leader of the Welsh Lib Dems.

Flights are operating and passengers should continue to check in as normal

Highland Airways

“Welsh Liberal Democrats have repeatedly argued for the budget of nearly £1m
to be spent on green public transport, so as to benefit hundreds of thousands
of rail users.”

Highland Airways was awarded a three-year contract to run the north-south Wales
route from May 2007.

However, on Monday, all its online flight bookings were suspended.

Hopeful of survival

Management at the Inverness-based airline told staff that they were still hopeful
of survival – despite what was described as “continuing difficulties”.

Commercial director Basil O’Fee said in a statement on Monday: “The company is
currently facing difficult trading, most recently exacerbated by the severe winter
and resultant reduced flying and reduced income.

“The board has been seeking new investment and has been in discussion with several
parties in recent weeks.

“The outcome of all these discussions should be judged within days rather than
weeks,” he said.

The company website said on Tuesday that it was business for usual for its passengers
and flights.

“Flights are operating and passengers should continue to check in as normal,”
it stated.

“We hope to be able to resume online bookings later today.

“Thank you to all of our customers for their patience and continued support.”

‘Priority service’

Bidding for the new tender to operate the Cardiff to Anglesey route closed on
Wednesday, and it is understood that only Highland Airways showed an interest.

Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones, the Plaid Cymru leader and Anglesey AM,
has described the service as an “essential link”.

“Ideally, we want Highland to remain running this route whilst they look for
new investors,” he said.

“If this is not possible and we face a worse case scenario with Highlands going
into administration, we hope any administrators could continue the service.

“If the administrators were unable to do this, the assembly government will look
for an interim solution to continue running the route – we feel we could do this
fairly quickly to ensure passengers continue to have a service. One option would
be to issue an interim contract.



see also


Clarity call on the Cardiff to Anglesey route as Highland stops bookings

26th January 2010         Calls for clarity on the future of the air route are made after the air firm
running it said it was facing “continuing problems”.   The twice-daily route between
Anglesey and Cardiff is operated by Highland with £800,000 public subsidy from
the Welsh Assembly Government. Tenders for a new contract for the route ended
on Weds and it is understood only Highland Airways bid. The route has a Public
Service Obligation (PSO) condition. (BBC)    
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