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OPINION: "don't be afraid of the sursis"


Monday 05 December 2022

OPINION: "don't be afraid of the sursis"

Monday 05 December 2022

Alderney resident Ralph Burridge has read through the sursis motivé lodged by Deputies Yvonne Burford and Heidi Soulsby, seeking to delay debate on the plans for Alderney's runway, until after the future of Guernsey's runway has been resolved. He hopes it is successful.

Mr Burridge is a former pilot and says not everyone in Alderney is supportive of the proposed 'Option C+' plan for redeveloping the island's airport and runway:

alderney runway Ralph burridge

Pictured: Ralph Burridge.

"The Deputy Burford and Deputy Soulsby sursis motivé is not, as others would have you believe, an unacceptable political ploy, it is a very sensible way for the States of Guernsey to sit back, take a few deep breaths and put its priorities in perspective. Not only just putting all its ducks in a row, but making sure that they are in the correct order.

I am sure that our Alderney States members and their ‘new best friends’ the Chamber of Commerce will be racing about like headless chickens crying foul (or in their case ‘Fowl’). They have nothing to fear, unless of course the sursis motivé goes against them and they are hit by the hard realism that their great ‘big is beautiful’ illusions of grandeur were nothing other than hot air, that turned into nothing when the bubble burst.

The Bailiwick is in financial straits and needs to be vigilant when committing itself to spend money that it hasn’t got, in the best way it knows how. to satisfying everyone’s priorities.

In simple terms, the States cannot do that, because supporting everything is a luxury it cannot afford. Being able to bring about a set of compromises that bring some degree of satisfaction to some, whilst knowing that by doing so will disappoint others is a difficult balancing trick.


Pictured: Deputy Yvonne Burford lodged the sursis motivé seconded by Deputy Heidi Soulsby.

In the case of the Burford/Soulsby sursis motivé, it brings into correct sequence, the Guernsey airport runway extension debate, deferred earlier this year, to be considered before the decision is made on the rehabilitation of Alderney’s present airfield and its potential upgrading by way of Option C+ to an airport capable of handling code 3C aircraft, such as the ATR72-600.

The principle of the sursis and the possible cost savings have not escaped even the doyen of Option C+ Deputy Roffey, who is quoted in the Guernsey Press as saying “Cheaper Alderney runway is better than delay”.

Personally, although I have a great deal of sympathy with those who believe that by extending Guernsey’s runway, more regional and low-cost carriers will then be able to use Guernsey in the same way that they do on Jersey. The big ‘fly in the ointment’ here is that unlike Jersey, Guernsey has a ‘closed skies’ policy in place that has been used thus far to block any carrier from operating into Guernsey that would threaten the monopoly situation enjoyed by Aurigny (remembering that by the same allocation process, Aurigny virtually ‘own’ the Guernsey/Alderney and Alderney/Southampton routes and would need to release their ‘sole use’ privilege to any new level 3 carrier operating an Alderney based hub).

Whichever way you look at it, Aurigny would not want any competition, any more than the States of Guernsey, having already propped up the airline to the tune of some £100 million of Bailiwick taxpayer’s money to prevent it failing, would not want to put their investment in jeopardy. A difficult situation which although the runway extension makes total sense, might still be difficult to resolve, because States logic doesn’t work that way.

For those that have been keeping up with our constant fight for the rehabilitation of Alderney’s runway to the less expensive Option B, thereby retaining it as an airfield and doing away with a very high percentage of the actual construction costs, as well as the costs of operating a fully equipped airport for what is only likely to be two rotations a day between Guernsey and Alderney.

The Burford/Soulsby sursis motivé has included within its detail something for which we have been seeking since the start of this debate, but which until now, has never been properly considered by the Guernsey States. Deputy Burford quite rightly says that she:

“Wants the debate on Alderney's airport to be preceded by a thorough investigation into whether an inter-island network of flights could be provided more efficiently without the proposed £24m project in Alderney.”

For those who haven’t kept themselves fully up to speed, our argument has always been that Aurigny should maintain its position as a level 2 regional carrier operating out of its Guernsey hub, whilst giving up what it cannot do well, trying to be a level 3 carrier into Alderney, using the wrong aircraft (both Dornier and ATR), whilst at the same time expecting the Bailiwick taxpayer to shell out yet more millions of pounds on a project it doesn’t need and in any event, cannot afford, just to save Aurigny money by allowing them to become a single aircraft type fleet owner.

The plan is not without its difficulties, as to make any smaller aircraft level 3 operation commercially viable, it must be allowed to operate unhindered between between Alderney, Guernsey and Jersey (including freight and mail between Alderney and Guernsey and freight between Alderney and Jersey), as well as the right to operate passenger and freight services on the Alderney/Southampton route (all other additional routes out of Alderney do not require the approval of Guernsey, as they are licenced by the States of Alderney).


Pictured: The financial viability of Aurigny is a key concern for many.

This might sound like a ‘Christmas BOGOF Giveaway’ but in reality, it would be a great improvement to the total flexibility of movements to and from Alderney. Both freight and mail services could be instantly revived, as would the outstanding 24/7 Alderney based Medivac service, when our target time was 35 to 40 minutes from call out to patient being delivered to the PE), You cannot better, or even close to that with an off-island service that has to position to Alderney first before it can even collect the patient.

One last observation relates to the recent publicity stunts set up by both the States of Alderney and the Chamber of Commerce, that have centred on the young people of the Island being promoted as the future of the Island and therefore becoming the definitive reason for spending £24 million on developing Alderney airport (although we are still of the firm belief that the final cost of Option C+ would still be about double that figure).

We would respectfully remind those who have been taken in by both media publications and a video production, which have become known as ‘Playground Politics’, that these promotions are fundamentally flawed. They declare that the young children of today are the Islands future of tomorrow and that the whole of Alderney’s air transport services have to revolve around them.

There is no denying that the young are the future of the Island, but although their parents might not agree, they are not the only people to consider when it comes to connectivity.

Air links are not the privilege of just the young. Whether you are a senior citizen, a mid-lifer or still at school, the same advantages gained by improved, flexible air services benefit everyone.

The achievement of that is what could honestly be called a true win win’ success."

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