Council seeks air link subsidy


Cornwall Council has held initial discussions with the Department for Transport regarding the possibility of the Government providing a subsidy for the Newquay to London air link. newquay airport

Following the decision by Flybe earlier this year that it was to terminate its service between Newquay and Gatwick at the end of March 2014, the Council has been involved in a number of negotiations with other airlines to secure the future of this route.

It had been hoped that easyJet would pick it up, but the airline recently announced that there was “insufficient demand” to make it sustainable.

Although discussions remain ongoing with other operators, the Council is also exploring other options to ensure the service is maintained, including a Public Service Obligation (PSO).

Imposing a PSO on the route between Newquay and London would mean the Government providing a subsidy to an operator to deliver the connection for a four-year period. This would provide a much more secure future for the route than the current situation which relies on the commercial decisions of an operator.

Adam Paynter, the Council’s cabinet member for partnerships, said: “While there is no guarantee that the Government will support this application, all initial pointers from the Department for Transport have been positive and we believe we meet the necessary criteria.”

The formal process, which is governed by EU regulations, requires the Council to seek competitive bids from airlines and present the case to the Government to provide financial support for one of these.

However, such a process doesn’t happen overnight, and Paynter conceded that the airport could be without a London link for a period of time.

He said: “Although our aim is to tender for a new service to begin on 1 April 2014, the length of the formal process means that it is possible that it would not be in place until later in the summer. This would result in a short break in service.

“While we recognise that this would create short-term difficulties for regular travellers, starting the application process earlier would not have been practical as an essential requirement for a PSO is the exhaustion of all commercial alternative options. However, if successful, this will help us secure the long-term future of this vital route.”