‘Ieuan Air’ Cardiff-Anglesey link passenger numbers plunged by 35% since it was introduced, Assembly committee hearsPosted: March 26, 2014
By Graham Henry,
Passenger numbers on a publicly-subsidised air route between Cardiff and Anglesey have plunged by 35% since it was first introduced, it has been revealed.
The north-south service – dubbed “Ieuan Air” after then-Deputy First Minister and Ynys Mon AM Ieuan Wyn Jones – has cost the taxpayer around £86 in subsidy for every one of the 65,073 passengers which used the service between May 2007 and April 2013, the Wales Audit Office (WAO) said in written evidence to the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) yesterday.
The WAO also said the government should “revisit” the business case for the service and undertake a “full options appraisal and cost-benefit analysis”, which includes alternative investments to the service.
Questioning Welsh Government officials, chair of the committee Darren Millar said passenger numbers using the service had “plummeted”, with planes now running at an average “load” of less than half, at around 46%-47%.
Director General of the Business, Enterprise, Technology and Science department James Price said passenger numbers were down 35% on “the highs of when it was first introduced”.
But he insisted the Welsh Government did believe the service delivered value-for-money.
He said: “Passenger numbers are down by about 35% on the highs when they were introduced.
“There was a time.. .when load factors [how full planes are] were up around 85%-86%. hey were above 80% and they are now between 40%-50%. That’s a significant fall, I would absolutely agree.”
Mr Price said the general economic downturn had contributed to around 10% of fall in passengers, while the decline in Cardiff Airport had also contributed to the decline.
He also said the operator, Citywing, had reported it was “positive” a passenger numbers were “picking up significantly” recently.
He said he “couldn’t second-guess” whether ministers would renew the service when the contract expires, but he said the department would consider options to expand the service to include flights to Hawarden, Flintshire, during a “seven-hour downtime” after planes arrive in Cardiff.
Auditor General for Wales Huw Vaughan Thomas also said in a briefing to AMs: “During the first two years of the Highland Airways contract – May 2007 to April 2009 – nearly 29,000 passengers used the service with an average reported load factor of 82%. This load factor performance compared favourably with an industry average load factor over the same period of around 76%.
“However, passenger numbers have been markedly lower in recent years and fell by 12.5% between 2011-12 and 2012-13.”
Sourced by Wales Online