Runways’ upgrade endorsed
Saturday 24th August 2013, 9:59AM BST.
ALDERNEY’S politicians have welcomed the announcement that Treasury has proposed prioritising upgrade work on its airport runways – but say the planned improvements do not go far enough.
Last year, Guernsey’s Public Services Department consulted on several options aimed at bringing the island’s asphalt runway and two grass runways up to scratch.
The proposed capital expenditure will fund the most modest of them all. The investment will cover two packages of work: improvements to the edges and drainage of the main runway and improving drainage, flattening out bumps and reseeding one or both of the grass runways. Engineers are currently costing the two packages of work, but it is thought to come in at around £1m.
Alderney politicians have been lobbying for some time for an upgrade – ideally including an extension to the main runway to accommodate larger aircraft.
Neil Harvey, chairman of the Business Development, Marketing and Tourism Committee, said: ‘We are grateful that Guernsey are going to do some work on our airfield but it’s not going to be much more than remedial work that should have been done before. So in terms of solving our problems, it’s not really the answer. We have plans for Alderney, to grow the economy and grow tourism, but the bottleneck is the airport.’
The size and condition of the runways was key to that growth, he said. The length of the asphalt runway means that a 19-seater aircraft is the largest it can currently accommodate. ‘For some time now Aurigny has been telling us the only way we will get more realistic fares on this route to Southampton is with bigger aircraft. We need to see if this is a reasonable proposition because it may be that expenditure on the runway would be more than offset by minimising the losses Aurigny makes on its Alderney route.’
Mr Harvey said that at a recent Alderney Liaison Group meeting the idea of a runway extension was mooted, with the idea that it could accommodate ATR42s, brought in on a chartered basis.
Alderney’s long grass runway, which runs north-west to south-east, is used when there are strong crosswinds and the shorter south-west to north-east grass runway is used in a prevailing wind. At the moment Alderney’s shorter grass runway is closed.
States Member Paul Arditti, who lobbied hard for extensive airport improvements when he was in the Alderney Liaison Group, claimed the new team had lost ground. ‘His [Neil Harvey’s] failure to take us one step forward from this superficial “fix”, which is where we were last year, is very damaging,’ he said.
‘In the light of this Guernsey Billet item, Louis Jean and I have taken over this vital work in Guernsey but it will be difficult to make up the lost ground; not least because, despite the support of the public, we cannot count on any support in the Alderney States.’
Guernsey’s States will debate the capital prioritisation report at the end of September.
Projects backed will still need to come back with more detail before they get the final go-ahead.
A PSD spokesman said: ‘Public Services is committed to ensuring Alderney Airport continues to provide lifeline connectivity for the island. ‘This will involve significant investment in the current infrastructure. We are optimistic the States will confirm that status, to reflect the importance of this project to Alderney.’