Wales politics

Cardiff-Anglesey air link could be saved by demand, minister says

An aircraft operated by Van Air Image copyright AirTeamImages
Image caption Citywing went into liquidation after Van Air planes were grounded due to safety concerns

The troubled air link between Cardiff and Anglesey could be saved by demand fuelled by projects like Wylfa Newydd, the minister responsible has said.

Eastern Airways has taken over from Citywing, which has been liquidated after 14 months running the route.

Economy Secretary Ken Skates said a review would report shortly on the future of the £1.2m annual subsidy.

The Welsh Conservatives said more should be done to make the service more appealing to the general public.

The new operators took over the Cardiff-Anglesey service on Monday with all Citywing tickets being honoured, Mr Skates said.

Since its launch in 2007, the service has had a string of operators and was found to be underperforming in a 2014 report.

Image caption We need to be better connected to the rest of the UK after Brexit, says Ken Skates

Last September, Mr Skates ordered a review of its future beyond May, with a report due in the next few weeks.

"One of my concerns is whether the actual service is sustainable ... whether we can actually identify a carrier that will be able to provide a reliable service long term, whether the level of subsidy is appropriate ... whether we are actually getting sufficient value for money at present," he told the Good Morning Wales programme on BBC Radio.

"What I've asked the review to look at is whether this service is needed, what alternatives or additional services might be needed.

"Cardiff is one of the fastest growing airports in the UK - we wish to grow Cardiff, we wish to grow other airports around the coast of Wales as well.

"Particularly in the context of Brexit we need to be better connected to the rest of the UK - not just Cardiff, but the whole of the country.

"With our smaller airports there's an opportunity to be connected to other cities and centres of economic activity."

Mr Skates confirmed that with around 9,000 passengers using the service every year, the cost of the subsidy amounted to around £120 each.

He pointed out that about half of the passengers came from the private sector, and that the prospect of major projects in north west Wales such as a new nuclear power station might justify the survival of the service.

"In the next few years Wylfa Newydd will come on stream and that's going to create a huge amount of activity on Anglesey," he said.

"Thousands of additional jobs will be created and so part of the review is looking at the demand based on increasing economic activity and intensification of infrastructure projects on Anglesey and within the north west Wales area.

"So we're going to be able to make a better informed decision on whether the service is needed and what alternatives might exist, and what additional services might be required for Anglesey airport."

The Welsh Conservatives called for a "radical rethink" of the way the air link operates, including ways of making it more attractive to the general public.

Economy spokesman Russell George said: "For too long it has served as an expensive, publicly-funded subsidy for the weekly commutes of senior Welsh civil servants, and it is difficult to justify spending more than a million pounds a year subsidising it."

He claimed the Anglesey airport's location on Ministry of Defence property at Valley "makes it impossible to offer weekend services - hugely restricting its convenience to day-trippers and people after short travel breaks".

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