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Runway report delayed by months - but Committee won't say why

Runway report delayed by months - but Committee won't say why

Monday 25 July 2022

Runway report delayed by months - but Committee won't say why

Monday 25 July 2022


A key report on whether to extend Guernsey's airport runway is months behind schedule - but the States' committee responsible for it will not say why it is delayed or when it will be produced.

The President of the Committee for Economic Development, Deputy Neil Inder, told a public scrutiny hearing in November that "what will be placed in front of the States in May or June [2022] will be a real, honest assessment of the benefits of extending that runway".

But the Committee has not yet submitted a policy letter or recommendations to the States' Assembly and has now told Express that it will be saying nothing further on the matter until September.

Express asked the Committee why its policy letter was delayed, how much work remained to be done on it, and when it would be published and submitted to the States.

In reply, the Committee said: "The President of the Committee [pictured top] will be providing an update on the timelines for the business case on the runway extension when he makes his next statement as President to the Assembly on 7 September, but does not intend to comment before that."

Deputy Inder's statement to the States on 7 September is only three working days before the normal deadline for committees to submit policy letters to the States for debate at their following meeting on 19 October. Any policy letter submitted after 12 September is likely not to be debated by the States until 23 November at the earliest. 

runway

Pictured: Successive States have held numerous debates over many years about whether to lengthen the airport runway and the Committee for Economic Development had said it intended to lead another debate on the issue before the Assembly adjourned for its summer break the week before last.

At the Scrutiny Management Committee's hearing in November, Deputy Inder said: "Infrastructure is never about today. It is always about tomorrow. We do not build for today, we build for tomorrow. If things are likely to change and if you want to see a post-Aurigny world, my advice is to give great consideration to the extension of our runway.

"If we all really want a future of decent infrastructure, we have to give this serious consideration. If that consideration is demonstrated in the policy letter, I have only got one way to go and that will be towards, at a minimum, 1,700 metres." The length of the runway is currently 1,463 metres.

At that time, Deputy Inder also said: "I will not bring anything to the States at all if I am not convinced there is a real business case based around it and it is real and it is live. It is significant amounts of public money...I absolutely must know that it is the right thing for Guernsey, and that will be based on information coming [to] us, the business case being built."

Commenting on social media yesterday, Deputy Inder said that he was "neutral" on whether the runway should be lengthened. 

Deputy Inder's tweet came 48 hours after the Policy & Resources Committee's Treasury Lead, Deputy Mark Helyar, told an open meeting hosted by the Institute of Directors that financial constraints meant that extending the runway could not be a priority for the States.

"Options are very important for a jurisdiction like this. But to me, the question that I have to be aware of is: can we afford it? And at the moment, the answer to that is probably no," said Deputy Helyar on Friday.

Deputy Mark Helyar

Pictured: Deputy Mark Helyar, the Policy & Resources Committee's Treasury Lead, said at the end of last week that lengthening the runway should not be considered a priority for the States.

Some deputies would like the Committee for Economic Development to seek the support of the States' Assembly to drop further work on whether to lengthen the runway and concentrate instead on priorities set out in the Government Work Plan approved earlier this month.

After Aurigny's Chief Executive last week questioned the benefits of extending the runway, Deputy Yvonne Burford said on social media: "I’ve been making these arguments against a runway extension for years. Yet every political term we see a determined cohort of deputies wasting hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money on consultants’ reports, etc. in a bid to spend £100million that we don’t have anyway."

Deputy Peter Roffey said he "knows nothing about the possible timing of any policy letter on extending Guernsey's runway or even if such a policy letter is still planned" and that he "remains very much against the idea because I don’t think the business case remotely stacks up".

"The runway extension would be very expensive with no reliable evidence that it would bring any significant benefits," said Deputy Roffey, who is President of the States' Trading Supervisory Board, which oversees the island's ports and acts as the shareholder of Aurigny on behalf of the States. 

"If the idea of extending the runway is to attract a low-cost carrier - and I can’t think what else it could be - that would also require many millions to be spent on the terminal building and infrastructure to cope with larger aircraft on a regular basis."

Deputy_Peter_Roffey_and_Deputy_Yvonne_Burford.jpg

Pictured: Deputies Peter Roffey and Yvonne Burford believe that money is being wasted by continually investigating whether to extend the airport runway. 

Deputy Roffey said that the States' previous conversations with low-cost carriers had revealed that "they would not be willing to pay the current commercial level of airport fees" and would instead "require a very big subsidy from [States'] general revenue towards the running of the airport". 

"Despite the name, there is no evidence that low-cost carriers create lower fares unless they are in competition with another carrier, and I am far from convinced that the Guernsey market is large enough for this situation to emerge," he said.

"A low-cost carrier would mean a lower frequency of rotations, which would be bad for the business sector. It would also probably mean no aircraft based in Guernsey, so no 'red eye' flight.

"We should learn from others’ experiences. The Isle of Man extended its runway at great cost and there was very little increase in traffic. What is more, any increase was largely due to transferring passengers from the ferry service and outgoing Manx passengers. They now have a far lower frequency of flights to key hub airports.

"If there was to be a low-cost airline operating in Guernsey, it would be the end of Aurigny as we know it – maybe altogether. Why dispense with a crucial insurance policy just when the premiums we pay for it have been brought down from the previous very high levels to next to nothing? It's very bad timing even to consider the idea.

"Five years down the line, if a newcomer decided to withdraw to pursue more profitable routes, there would be nothing we could do about it and it could wreck Guernsey’s economy.

"The focus shouldn’t be on undermining our lifeline carrier but on making it wash its own face. That is exactly what my attention is on rather than on chasing unicorns through a 'build it and they will come' scheme which would cost an absolute fortune."

READ MORE...

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