States will be asked to back extending runway

A MULTIMILLION-POUND project to extend the runway is ‘very likely’ to be recommended to States members next year, with the hope it will pave the way for low-cost airlines to start operating to the island.

(Picture By Peter Frankland, 30223010)
(Picture By Peter Frankland, 30223010)

Neil Inder, the president of Economic Development, said that the majority of his committee were in favour of the extension in a bid to attract more visitors and new businesses.

He told a Scrutiny Management Committee public hearing yesterday that the States had to plan for the future.

‘I don’t like flannel and I won’t bring anything to the States unless there is a good business case. I don’t need my portrait in the Tarmac, I must know that it’s the right thing for Guernsey, and what we put before the States will be an honest assessment of the benefits of extending.

‘If the current team [at Aurigny] don’t deliver on their desire to make the company profitable, then we cannot continue blowing £20m. a year on what is effectively a national carrier.’

A policy letter on the issue is expected to go before the States in May or June.

SMC president Yvonne Burford asked if attracting thousands of extra visitors was ‘realistic’ and whether a ‘build it and they

will come’ philosophy was prudent on expenditure in excess of £100m.

She also highlighted that low-cost airlines would not usually pay airport fees. This would impact States revenues.

Deputy Inder responded that the island needed decent infrastructure and had to build for new technologies, such as electric aircraft, which will require a longer runway.

He believed that the runway should be extended from the current 1,463m to at least 1,700m.

‘We know that ships will sail into harbours, we know that aeroplanes will land at airports.

‘We are an island, that’s a fact, and flying ain’t going anywhere, and nor is sailing.’

Last year a report by consultant Frontier Economics found that a runway extension would bring significant economic benefits, estimated at £200m. over a 40-year period.

However, that report was drawn up before Covid-19 hit, so the findings are being reviewed to ensure that the business case still stacks up.

Speaking after the hearing, Deputy Inder said he did not believe that a low-cost airline would lead to the demise of Aurigny.

‘I don’t understand why one low-cost airline carrier would destroy all of Aurigny.

‘If you’re going to have Dorniers and ATRs you don’t need to extend the runway, but I think we have to look beyond the days of just Aurigny.’

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