Thursday, 25 March 2010

++ 'Ieuan Air' goes bust ++

Ieuan Wyn Jones demonstrating how he will be commuting between Anglesey & Cardiff from now on

The BBC has just announced that Highland Airways - the company which operates the highly subsidised Anglesey-Cardiff air link - has gone into administration. Not hugely surprising news, especially considering the remarkably blunt comments made by Highland Air's executive Chairman last month regarding the WAG's handling of the contract extension negotiations:

"We suspect that WAG either simply do not want to award any contract to Highland Airways for political reasons or else they hope that Highland Airways will fail and that they can allow the service also to fail – blaming Highland.”

This prompted Ieuan Wyn Jones to leap into action sending a letter to the Daily Post (March 15):

"We are certainly not 'dithering' over the North-South Air link.
We are 100% committed to this service and we certainly do not 'hope it will fail' as claimed by Mr Wright. It has been a great success and our objective is to make sure there is no break in this service.
The facts are that the current contract comes to an end this May and we carried out an open tender process. Unfortunately this was not successful - we did not receive any bids that complied with the requirements of this particular tender.
I want to reassure passengers who use this service that action is being taken to secure its future and keep it in place"

Not sure what the 'requirements' of the tender were - but I would imagine that they would probably include an obligation for the winning airline to operate the link with far less WAG subsidy than was previously necessary (£800,000 per year). The fact that the tender failed probably reflects the economic reality that there just isn't a great demand for the service.

Personally the Druid didn't think that the North-South Air link was such a bad idea. Anglesey is on the periphery of the United Kingdom so an improved transport infrastructure to effectively bring the Island 'closer' to the economic centre is absolutely necessary to attract businesses here. The problem is that the North-South Air link only linked one peripheral part of the UK to another peripheral part. As far as the Druid is concerned it would have made more business sense for the WAG to subsidise an air link between Anglesey and London - even if that wouldn't make IWJ's weekly commute so convenient.

UPDATE: More here from the BBC's Betsan Powys.


Ioan said...

From my understanding, the Ynys Mon - Cardiff service made a profit, it was other parts of the business that dragged the company down. I'll miss the service - not only did it save me time, but it's much less tiring than driving down.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Ioan - yes, Betsan mentioned that its wasn't the North-South airlink which was Highland Air's main problem financially. Still, the fact that the WAG couldn't find a company willing to operate the link without significant subsidy surely points to a lack of demand - or perhaps the timing at the end of a recession isn't ideal.

Chameleon said...

Better to spend the money on improving North-South Wales rail links surely? Would benefit far more people.

Anonymous said...

This was inevitable! Another disastrous decision taken by the lost mountain sheep of North Wales. Now whats going to happen to Terminal building at RAF Valley, land locked on a military base. The best location for the air link was RAF Mona were Anglesey Council own the south. At least if it had been built there GA aircraft could have made use of it and it would still benefit Anglesey.

Un o Fôn

Anonymous said...

Due to our remoteness of location, there must a credible commercial (and political- representational) need for a quick air link with Caerdydd, and perhaps Dublin for tourism, and London.....if not the daily service as was, but perhaps a twice-weekly can`t be beyond the wit of an entrepreneur to set this up, with a subsidy it environmentally sustainable is a different question.
Blin o Fon.

Anonymous said...

It would be refreshing if people of influence (which term includes Ieuan Wyn Jones, God help us) would realise that the only demand for this airborne white elephant is from the like of Mr Jones himself - i.e. assembly politicians and civil servants.

The rest of us, who rarely if ever visit Cardiff, would prefer top quality road and rail links to Manchester, Liverpool and London - places where real people from Anglesey actually want to go to.

The Druid of Anglesey said...

Anon & Anon - I completely agree.

Research Scientist said...

I can personally attest that the service was well used by normal people, most of whom will now presumably switch to cars rather than use that so called train service supplied by a certain Arriva. Actually, one of the key problems was getting a booking on the thing - and I think another problem is that it was run by this Highland outfit. I think one of the key problems of this service is there is a lack of airlines in the UK capable of taking this kind of service on (small turboprop). Flybe would seem a candidate but they are a low budget operation which brings a different set of problems.

I think there are a lot of nasty and delusional comments being made on various forums and blogs, especially lib dem leaning ones, about the economics etc. Importantly, some figures must be kept it mind. The £800K per year spent on the service was a bargain compared with how much you would have to spend on road and rail - them Class 175 trains that ply the HHD-CDF route cost about £2-3M apiece for three carriages, and that in the late 90s. The costs of new lines and stations are pretty astronomical, combined with the small problem of the Chester - Cardiff route actually running through England for a good part of the way, which complicates investment strategies. Many bus and train services right across Wales, including the relatively densely populated Glamorgan and Gwent, will get similar, if not more levels of subsidy to cart a handful of people of around.

I fully agree with the posters above re rail connections to MCT and Crewe - which have ironically been ruined so we can have lots of unwanted trains to Cardiff.

Don;t get me started on the eco aspects of flying, which is the real reason the lib dems get their knickers in such a twist - and this from a fully quailfied scientist.

Ows said...

I've flown it on a number of occasions. It's worth it, after all, it's a four and a half hour drive each way otherwise. Try it before you knock it.