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Runway extension the key to lower fares - campaigners

Runway extension the key to lower fares - campaigners

Wednesday 16 September 2020

Runway extension the key to lower fares - campaigners


The case for replicating Jersey by extending the runway remains "unequivocal" despite the impact of Covid-19, according to a group of former pilots and businessmen, who say the project will help reverse the decline of local tourism and boost the long-term recovery of our economy.

The letter sets out the 'facts' of the Frontier Economics Report commissioned by the States and published earlier this year, shortly before the corona virus pandemic took hold.

It has been signed by Jerry Girard, Tim Robins, Barry Cash, Rob le Page, Harvey Marshall, Dr John Ferguson and Peter Bachmann. 

They say Guernsey's runway is too short to accept industry standard short haul jets on an economic basis, meaning the island must pursue a runway extension - or else fall further behind Jersey in the market for tourism and transport links. 

"It is a fallacy that Jersey is able to support the operation of larger aeroplanes just because of that island’s larger population," they said.

"Actually, it is the availability of low fares that is the controlling factor that creates the demand for people to travel and a very large majority of passengers travelling to Jersey, are non-residents.

easyjet.jpg

Pictured: Pre-Covid, EasyJet flew regularly to Jersey. One of the budget airline's planes is seen here leaving Gatwick Airport. 

"It is the availability of these low fares and the demand that it creates for people to travel to Jersey, that enables Jersey residents to benefit from superior air links with frequency, low fares and an extensive route network. There is no reason at all that this would not be replicated here in Guernsey, with a runway length similar to that in Jersey."

They say that in contrast to Jersey, we are constrained by the length of our runway, which is "the shortest in the UK for any major commercial airport and probably the only independent island jurisdiction in the world that cannot not take industry standard jets".

Apart from Aurigny and Blue Islands/Loganair, they say there are now very few UK airlines with planes that can operate our vital air links to the UK. 

"Basic economics dictates that larger airlines with larger aeroplanes can avail them themselves of the economies of scale and offer low fares. Jersey is the perfect example of this in action, with fares 39% lower than those in Guernsey. 

Blue_Islands_Loganair_copy.jpg

Pictured: Aside from Aurigny, the group of seven say Blue Islands and Loganair are among the few airlines who can still provide the island with vital links to the UK. 

"There is no doubt that post-Covid, airlines will be keen to invest in industry standard new generation jet aeroplanes, which will be up to 20% more efficient, but will need a 1700m - 1740m runway to operate from. Not only will these larger aeroplanes burn less fuel, but due to their capacity, they will emit less CO2 per passenger, thus adding to their green credentials."

They point to the fact that passenger numbers through Guernsey Airport have been falling since 2011, long before Covid-19 entered the conversation. 

"This explains why hotels remain empty and bed stock is declining," their letter states. "But once the tourist industry can see a positive future with an increase in people arriving in Guernsey, this will be the trigger for businesses to invest in the industry. Until then, it would simply not be viable.

"We have an abundance of historical and natural attractions here in the Bailiwick, to make people want to come here for a holiday and developing the tourist economy will be a vital part of our recovery and future sustainability. All we need is low fares to attract them here."

Jan_Kuttelwascher_and_David_De_Lisle.jpg

Pictured: The late Deputy Jan Kuttelwascher, centre, championed a runway extension during his time in the States. 

The need to 'Revive and Thrive' post-Covid makes the runway extension more essential, not less, according to the group.

"It is vital that long overdue investment is made in our infrastructure, but this investment must realise a return to the Guernsey taxpayer. Late last year, the Frontier Economics Report was commissioned by the States to look at a Cost Benefit Analysis of extending the Guernsey Runway.

"The recommendations were published just prior to the Covid crisis and they are unequivocal and unambiguous in stating that the benefits to our future economy far outweigh the environmental and capital costs. Therefore this infrastructure project will indeed provide a return on the taxpayers’ investment, which in turn will help with the long term recovery of our economy.

"The Frontier Economics Report is looking way into the future when hopefully the negative effects of Covid on the demand for travel will be just a distant memory and our essential travel links to and from the UK will be normalised."

La Grande Mare plans

Pictured: The owner of La Grande Mare has brought its redevelopment plans forward in light of the current shutdown on tourism.

"By that time there should be a significant increase in people wishing to travel to Guernsey for tourism and commerce. Bearing in mind that it will take several years before a runway extension would be operational, a further delay in making a decision would be just more unnecessary shortsighted prevarication. 

"Therefore the Frontier recommendations, post-Covid, should still be valid, as extra passengers will be generated, even if the base normal is lower in the short term. 

"The question has to be asked - why would the States of Guernsey commission yet another professional report and then continue to ignore the advice given?"

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