THE ANGLESEY AIRPORT STORY
The idea of an airport at Anglesey's RAF Valley Fast Jet Training Centre had been mooted now and then over the years. One obvious reason was the Island's ambition to make itself an easier to reach tourist location.
A project had been developed for Mona Aerodrome near Gwalchmai in the early to mid 80s. It was quite well advanced as well. The idea was to make the Mona Industrial Site a business centre that could be serviced by the runway. It progressed to such a point that a £200,000 taxiway was built off the RAF runway.
Such is the way of things that it ended there, even after quite a substantial infrastructure investment. What has happened since the taxiway was created is that a road of inferior asphalt has been cut right through it rendering it completely useless.
Such things happen when you're not spending your own money but that from the public purse.
But it was not until 2006 that big players became involved in the project to create an airport at RAF Valley. It has since progressed beyond gentle ambition to operational success.
The airport came into operation in 2007 and, despite a degree of local scepticism has become a facility used by politicians, business people and locals heading down to Cardiff for a weekend or to enjoy the sales. Most locals thought that it would only be a jolly for Cardiff based politicians.
I know of people in their late eighties who have travelled down to weddings in Cardiff. So scepticism has been replaced by shoppers, those travelling down to watch international rugby or to enjoy a long weekend in Wales’ capital city.
The weekday flights are between RAF Valley and Cardiff with return morning and evening flights. This Anglesey-Cardiff leg was only the initial plan that would draw down subsidy from the Welsh Assembly Government from the European Commission's Public Service Obligation (PSO)
There are active plans to have regular flights to Dublin but these are in the putative or planning stage at the moment. However, as the usage of the airport grows then there is a greater likelihood of this happening. Also, it is hoped that weekend flights could also be on the horizon - nothing yet on the latter.
£4.8 MILLION TO GUARANTEE FUTURE OF ANGLESEY AIRPORT
December 7 2010
It was a troubling time for Anglesey earlier this year when Highland Airways went belly-up financially, like a number of much larger operators in the UK.
Though the service was temporarily suspended for a number of weeks, by the Highland Airways meltdown, a new air service provider was found through tender in July, namely Manx2.com.
As part of the vital financial incentive, a subsidy has always been significant in maintaining the North-South Airlink. The Welsh Assembly Government has defended the increase in subsidy for the service, which jumps by 50% to £1.2m a year from the previous £800,000.
A spokesperson said it reflected changes since the first north-south airlink agreement in 2007.
"Since then the costs of operating the service has increased, for example increases in fuel, salary costs, landing charges, etc, the current budget limit reflects these increased costs,"
This is significant in two ways.
Firstly, the annual £1.2million is across a four-year period. Secondly, the Assembly Government has guaranteed a service that has become very popular with Anglesey people.
When the services was first mooted and then the contract awarded local people were among the most vociferous opponents. The familiar arguments were that this would be a service predominantly for the politicians and business people.
This has long been dispelled because many of the thousands of travellers to use the RAF civilian air-service are locals.
Nonetheless, despite the acceptance of the civilian air service by Manx2.com from RAF Valley by its tens of thousands of users, the politicians seem to be having the usual fall-out.
The Labour-Plaid Cymru Coalition in Cardiff has clearly nailed its colours to the mast on the air service component of its overall Transport Strategy. The project was instigated and steered by Albert Owen MP and received the full support of the County Council once it was seen as a winner.
However, the Liberal Democrats in the Welsh Assembly have very little to lose on Anglesey, considering the paucity of their support on the Island.
Jenny Randerson told BBC Wales:
“It beggars belief that the Labour-Plaid government can waste another £4.8m of taxpayers' money …[and] an environmental and financial outrage."
In response Mr Ieuan Wyn Jones, Anglesey AM and Assembly Deputy First Minister, said,
"I think it is justified, simply because we need to maintain good communications between north and south of our country."
Mr Jones re-iterated the Welsh Assembly Government’s commitment to maintain the air-link between Cardiff and North Wales.
"This service is well used, it is well utilised, and it's a wide range of people - there are business people, people visiting friends and families, people going for tourism opportunities, as well as of course as people from the public sector."
All the politicking to lone side, this means that Anglesey will retain a direct twice-daily link with the Welsh capital, Cardiff.
Manx2.com chairman Noel Hayes said:
"As a Celtic neighbour, Manx2.com is delighted to have been chosen to continue the connection between Cardiff and Anglesey.
"With our home base just 50 miles away across the Irish Sea, we're excited about continuing our award-winning Manx service into the future."
Saturday 17 October 2009
Such is the demand for seats on the regular weekday flights between Anglesey and Cardiff that it is now intended to increase the length of financial support for the service and Highland Airways to fly larger planes.
In the first two years of the Service almost 30,000 people have flown in and out from RAF Valley thus proving viability as a EU supported business and public service.
The Welsh Assembly Government has now decided that it will tender again for further Public Service Obligation finding from the EU. If successful then this will guarantee an operational future until 2014.
While that bid is being prepared, Highland Airways have decided that they will upgrade their aircraft to carry at least 29 passengers on each flight from May 2010. This is an increase from the current 18 places.
That Maes Awyr Mon has been a great success is a victory against those many Nay-Sayers who appear to be against any kind of major investment on Anglesey.
One thing that these Nay-Sayers have in common seems to be a lack of ambition, ability and commitment. It's the easiest thing in the world among those who lack ability to decry efforts and enthusiasm in others.
Nothing justifies the position of Nay-Saying more than seeing someone fail. It's always easier to maintain a position where it is always someone else's fault rather than their own failure to engage with courage.
I support Bobby Charlton's thoughts about making ambitious shots at goal. As long as you have a go, then the fans will forgive you. It's when you do not take a chance that you lose support.
Congratulations to all those who are having a go for Anglesey rather having a go at it.