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17/06/2013 - Final Call for West Highlands & Islands Air Route Survey

HITRANS (Highlands and Islands Regional Transport Partnership) are providing those who live, travel or are interested in travelling to/from the Oban, Barra or Kintyre areas with a final opportunity to express their views on a number of air routes through an online survey. The deadline for responses is 24th June 2013. Responses to the survey are invited from both individuals and businesses.

The survey is part of a review of air services being undertaken by consultants Northpoint Aviation Services on behalf of HITRANS. The study is assessing the potential to develop a number of new or enhanced air services using available aircraft capacity. Based on the consultants’ first phase of research, the survey will collect views and information regarding potential demand for the following possible new routes:
 
•             Oban-Barra

•             Oban-Glasgow

•             Campbeltown-Oban.
The survey also seeks to gather views and information on potential enhancements to the existing Glasgow-Barra air service.
 

….End


Background

Lifeline air services in the Highlands and Islands are a crucial part of the transport network. They comprise a combination of commercial routes and those supported by Public Service Obligation linking internal communities and destinations external to the region. They carry over one million passengers per annum through some 20 airfields operated by Highland and Islands Airports Ltd and Local Authorities.
Most scheduled passenger services operate commercially. The exceptions are the intra-local authority flights along with those from Glasgow to Barra, Campbeltown and Tiree. The Orkney Islands Council and Argyll and Bute Council PSO services are operated by Islander aircraft while the Comhairle PSO services are operated by Saab 340 aircraft.
The timetables and fares for those routes are set by Public Service Obligation (PSO) tendering by the public sector, with subsidy provided for them. On other intra-Scottish routes fares for qualifying residents are provided at reduced rates through the Air Discount Scheme.

Purpose of Study

Barra, Campbeltown and Tiree are currently served by a Scottish Government funded PSO air service. To ensure robustness of service delivery the Scottish Government has committed funding in their budget to procure two newly manufactured Twin Otter aircraft for these operations. The unique beach air strip in Barra means this element of the service has to be run by aircraft with very special operational characteristics such as the Twin Otter.
This study is considering the feasibility of also using these two aircraft but also other aircraft that may be available, to enhance existing air service provision. The study will consider the use of the PSO instrument as well as other methods of improving service levels such as the extension of the Air Discount Scheme or whether de minimis (commercial subsidy permitted under EU regulations) support would be an appropriate means of supporting air service developments.

Opportunities
There are a number of route opportunities in the West Highland air network the market for which, and the resultant economic benefit, could usefully be tested using any spare airtime capacity in the system.
The consultants Northpoint Aviation have undertaken an initial review and identified a number of links that are the subject of the online survey. These options do not include opportunities from the airport at Ashaig on Skye which has already been the subject of a recent survey, the results of which will be considered as part of the wider review currently being undertaken by Northpoint Aviation. This work will investigate the feasibility of any potential new services considering the operational and resource constraints that may impact on their delivery.

 

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