Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Kirsty Williams's Ieuan Air jibe misses the point

Welsh Lib Dem leader, Kirsty Williams, in her speech to conference yesterday contrasted the Coalition government's record on green policies with that of the Welsh Assembly:

Well, [WAG's] biggest achievement is the creation of Wales‘ very own internal air link. You think domestic flights from Manchester to London are a scandal? Try Anglesey to Cardiff !
The minister presiding over this scandal is Plaid Cymru’s leader, and Deputy First Minister, Ieuan Wyn Jones. His commute? That’s right: Anglesey to Cardiff !
No wonder they call it Ieuan Air.
3.2 million pounds of our money pumped into an air link which has in turn pumped thousands of tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere at a cost to the taxpayer of £84 for each and every trip.
And you know, whilst Ministers fly between Cardiff and Anglesey. The empty ministerial limo still makes the trip to drop of the ministerial boxes.

As Wales currently lacks any significant road or rail transport infrastructure linking North, Mid and South Wales, I personally am in favour of the air link -- however, I do oppose the size of the subsidy. Some justify it by saying that the £800,000 per annum cost of the air link is minuscule compared to the cost of building a rail or motorway along the length of Wales, however this is I believe a bogus argument.

The fact is that subsidies distort the market and create perverse incentives. As things stand there is currently no incentive for any firm to attempt to fly between Anglesey and Cardiff without demanding financial support from the Welsh Assembly -- and far more importantly there is no incentive for any operator to consider offering flights from Anglesey to any other airports in the UK as they will not attract a subsidy and will therefore by definition be less profitable. In my view Ynys Môn (and by extension the whole of North Wales) would benefit far more from regular (even bi-weekly) flights between Anglesey and London, than it does from flights between here and Cardiff -- however the sheer scale of the subsidy available for linking Anglesey and Cardiff makes any other routes far less likely.


Anonymous said...

The company running the Mon-Cdiff link already has the infrastructure (ticketing, sales, marketing) in place to expand into new areas. If the Mon-Cdiff service was not there, it would be more difficult to set up a London-Mon service from scratch.
A London service would only work if it was comparable in convenience with the Cardiff journey. Isn't the rail link with London quicker and therefore more competitive?

Anonymous said...

Ieuan Air is nothing short of a scandal in my opinion.
How on earth can this ever make any sense. I take it that the case for this in the first place was that it would attract new businesses to the Island .As far as I can see the reverse is true so why continue with this farce year on year just so Ieuan can have a few more lie-in’s.

Anonymous said...

Hi Druid,

Aren’t we missing the plot here in North Wales? The nationalist politicians have completely lost there way in been totally immersed in Cardiff Bay. Here in North Wales who are more connected with the Merseyside and Manchester region. Who comes to North Wales?? When do you ever see people from South Wales visiting us, you have only to use the north Wales A55 at the weekend to see were people are coming from. Surely the Air Link is only to connect the politicians with our governors in Cardiff. If we have any hope in North Wales we need to reconnect with the North West. These are the people who visit us and would invest with us. It time we stopped been lead by the Lost Mountain Sheep !!!

Un o Fôn

Anonymous said...

A very good point. A commercial flight to Manchester might have proper paying customers, not just govt and quango suits on exes.

The Red Flag said...

It's not just the 800K subsidy though is it. That's paid by the tax-payer along with the cost of any government official or civil servant - because the tax-payer pays for their seat, and any business man because they offset it agianst expenses which in turn are tax deductable.

It's only tourists etc that actually pay into it.

Personally, what they need is to build a motorway or dual carriageway from somewhere roundabout Colwyn Bay down to between Swansea and Cardiff, and one going straight across from Birmingham to Aberystwyth.

That would open-up Wales properly to commerce, tourism etc

Golf X-Ray Juliet said...

"Some justify it by saying that the £800,000 per annum cost of the air link is minuscule compared to the cost of building a rail or motorway along the length of Wales,"

It's true it would be very expensive indeed to build the road or rail network, but the comparison with the air subsidy is indeed false as it doesn't take into account the much greater numbers who would likely use those services compared to a very small aircraft. Be that as it may, there won't be any money for roads and train lines in the foreseeable future.

I think the basic position is that there are simply too few people who are travelling at any one time to or from this area to make air (and many other) services profitable.

Have a look at this sheet of charges for Manchester Airport, and you soon see why using it quickly becomes massivley expensive - even a small 4-seater Cessna costs £150 to land there! To make your calculation, the Anglesey aircraft (Dornier 228) weighs about 6.6 tonnes maximum take-off weight:


Jarlath said...

As I see it, the problems are them mountains in between us. A substantial amount of money has been spent on the A470, but that has still not made the journey significantly quicker. As to the Shrewsbury route, sadly the English Transport Department do not see it as a priority.

Links within countries are important i.e. between the North and South , that is why in England they are willing to spend billions in improving the railway connection. We do not have billions, so maybe in that context; the current air link between Anglesey and Cardiff is not as ridiculous as some would make out. Also, add in other factors such as reduced emissions (if the plane is full) and other if small benefits - less traffic on the roads, and reduced risk of accidents.

From Anglesey, yes I can get to Liverpool and Manchester very quickly on the A55, but to achieve that the cost was high, parts of the A55 where at one time the most expensive in Europe in construction terms. As for the trip to London, the priority should be to improve and electrify the Holyhead to Chester line.

Let us see what develops, see what is possible, and review and make a choice then, rather than never never, the default choice of the sceptic.

The Red Flag said...

It's true it would be very expensive indeed to build the road or rail network, but the comparison with the air subsidy is indeed false as it doesn't take into account the much greater numbers who would likely use those services compared to a very small aircraft.

Exactly. It's not handfuls of people that's needed - it's tens of thousands and more.

"Aim for the sky and you'll reach the ceiling. Aim for the ceiling and you'll stay on the floor." - Bill Shankly

Jarlath said...

What is interesting is that according to;

"The WAG’s subsidy for the flights includes £400,000 a year for Anglesey [County] council to operate Anglesey Airport, the civilian terminal at RAF Valley."

The Druid of Anglesey said...

GXJ - The charges for landing at Manchester Airport are very interesting. Still, I would have thought that in the manner of Ryan Air reasonably close non-major airports could be found to fly in and out of at a cheaper price.

Jarlath - £400,000p.a. to operate Anglesey Airport? I wonder how that gets spent. The termina consists of one medium sized one-storey, no-thrills building. The staff there seem to be entirely employed by Manx2. I find it difficult to imagine what £400K is spent on beyond the original investment in building the terminal...

Anonymous said...

Ieuan's Air is his baby, his balloons are his baby, his van is his baby, leave the man alone, he has done nothing... at all....the twat!!!!!!!!!!!!

Richard Sletzer said...

The North/South Wales airlink is absolutely vital to an area like Anglesey. Subsidised PSO air services operate all over the world - even the USA. In Wales the North South Airlink makes up a little for the disadvantage Anglesey suffers by having such poor transport links with the rest of Wales and the UK.

However Kirsty Williams needs to justify her incredible comment about the "thousands of tons" of CO2 emissions. How many thousand exactly? Who says so?

Whilst Bangor University are deliberately venting a ton of C02 into the skies of North Wales every day to "see what effect it has on trees" I would have thought that the CO2 emissions from the North/South airlink (which only burns 70 litres of kerosene on each trip) are nowhere near even one ton - let alone "thousands".

Groundhog Day said...

"The North/South Wales airlink is absolutely vital to an area like Anglesey."

Why?? Does it bring us any more business or benefits from Cardiff?? Do the people of South Wales fly up here as tourists?? Please enlighten us all as to the benefits of this subsidised white elephant with the exception of providing Ieuan with his own little transport system while the ministerial limo is still in use. Time for Teeny Weeny Airways to go in my opinion.

It would not bother me in the least if North Wales became a part of Merseyside or Greater Manchester because we have more to thank these areas for than Cardiff. I shudder to think that it is likely that, like turkeys voting for Christmas, the Welsh public will give the WAG even more powers come the referendum.

Old Mona said...

I think that the airlink is one of the only good ideas to come out of Cardiff but I had hoped it would be a catalyst to other destinations being served from Anglesey like London, Birmingham, Manchester/Liverpool but that has not happened.Last year I had to go to a meeting in Cardiff on a Monday morning, I was told to drive down on Sunday night and drive back Monday night. I mentioned that there was an airlink and although this was a major media company they had no idea it existed, I ended up taking the flight.

The major problem is that no-one knows about it. I used to attend the World Travel Market in London which is a market place for all the tourism destinations in the world where buyers come to see whats on offer. I went to the WTB stand and asked for info on Anglesey and the best they could come up with was a few leaflets about Snowdonia. I expect that stand cost well in excess of £100k Now the WTB does not exist and IOACC do nothing about promoting tourism. As has been suggested on the blog before this Island needs to be sold as a destination for business and tourism but nobody is doing it. I think it is a bloody scandal

Anonymous said...

They don't want tourists, they want to pretend they encourage tourism, but the reality is different, big business struggle here, there is no help to market the island as a tourist haven, the only answer is for businesses to do their own advertising and promotions which is a massive expense, while our local government vermently deny they don't support this aspect, tourism is good for the Island, but extra work for this Council is NOT!