While the States’ Trading Supervisory Board (STSB) continues to work on the Alderney Runway Project, both the States of Alderney and alternative stakeholders have begun to raise their voices.
While the States of Alderney stolidly support extending the island’s runway there are some – including past members of the island’s government – who stand vehemently against the idea.
The Alderney Runway Project is being developed as part of Guernsey’s Government Work Plan and has been informed by a feasibility study and public consultation period carried out by Guernsey Ports.
It’s now in the hands of STSB, who will aim to bring a policy letter with proposals and costings to the States’ Assembly later this year.
A public consultation earlier this year saw STSB reveal three options to stakeholders; A, B and C. Option A would be a full rehabilitation project of the existing 877-metre-long runway, option B would be the same but with an added allowance for larger aircraft in the future and option C would be to extend the runway from 877 to 1,050 metres.
A do-nothing option is not feasible due to the poor condition of the island’s runway at the moment.
Despite calls for STSB to divulge the current financial estimates for extending the runway, the Board’s President, Deputy Peter Roffey, has said that it would be commercially inappropriate to do so until a tender process has been completed.
However, the Guernsey Aviation Advisory Group (GAAG), who are strongly opposed to the idea of extending the runway, has estimated that it could cost upwards of £50 million.
The States of Alderney have made it very clear that they prefer ‘option C’ and the extension of the runway, which would allow for larger aircraft to land in Alderney. It has been claimed this could provide an additional 20,000 seats per year to and from Alderney and secure the island’s Alderney-Southampton route.
The Chairman of Alderney’s Policy & Finance Committee, Ian Carter, recently said: “This is a crucial payback to the Bailiwick that P&F wishes to emphasise as our friends at the States of Guernsey consider the way ahead.
“Option C+ will save money in the long-term and Alderney as part of the Bailiwick will benefit from increased numbers of visitors and people wanting to live here, thus boosting the economy and contributing more in tax. And I can’t emphasise enough the importance of a dedicated medevac service run separately to Aurigny that would bring us in line with modern health services to remote communities.
“We are in regular discussions with Aurigny, the States Trading Supervisory Board, Guernsey Ports and the States of Guernsey about all of these matters.”
The Alderney Chamber of Commerce has also expressed support of the extension, according to the States of Alderney.
Express recently reported on the concerns raised by GAAG, who believe the proposals to extend the runway will only benefit Aurigny.
More recently, a past member of the States of Alderney and past member of Aurigny, Ralph Burridge, issued a rebuttle to the government’s support of the extension plans.
“You always know when the States members get rattled whilst trying to impress the public with their flawed Alderney airport Option ‘C’ rebuild decision-making process and someone burst their balloon; they issue a Press Release,” he said.
“Their latest attempt to defend the indefensible, promotes nothing of importance, whilst completely ignoring the overwhelmingly supportive mood of the public to the constructive proposals to give back to Alderney the service that it once had and could so easily have again.”
He argues that 20,000 seats are not achievable and “for every empty seat, the cost per seat mile goes up and so do the fares”.
Mr Burridge said if ATRs are given access to Alderney – the ATR is a larger plane operated by Aurigny that could land if the runway is extended – “the running costs of operating the airfield will be astronomical”. You can read his full letter HERE.
He also aired his support for GreenAir, a local company seeking to get hydrogen-electric planes to operate the Alderney-Guernsey-Southampton route. Express interviewed GreenAir’s owner earlier this week.
To complicate matters, the States of Alderney have been highly critical of GreenAir following a political consultation with the firm earlier this year.
“Although the States of Alderney strongly supports green and environmental initiatives as set out in the Island Plan, we must have certainty over our airlinks and do everything to mitigate any risk to them,” said Mr Carter,
“GreenAir’s plans are not underpinned by any formal agreements with the key flying partners, Aurigny or Skybus, and omit many of the fundamental detailed aspects of airport and flight procedures."
STSB will continue to assess the three options available for the future of Alderney’s runway and develop its policy letter for debate in the States. The Board expects to make its recommendations at some point this year.
Meanwhile, the CEO of Aurigny, Nico Bezuidenhout, has thrown his support behind option C, arguing that “the only way to make it [Aurigny flights] cheaper still is to extend the Alderney runway”.
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Aurigny created this whole mess by buying the wrong aircraft in the first place and they now want the States to bail them out again.
If ever there was a case of tail wagging dog...........