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Cardiff Airport needs better transport links, expert says

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: December 20, 2012

Cardiff Airport

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CARDIFF Airport needs better transport links — Welsh-Government owned or not — an expert has said.

Airport planning consultant Laurie Price was speaking in the wake of Tuesday's Welsh Government announcement that it aimed to buy the airport from TBI, currently owned by the Spanish company Abertis.

"The thing that would make a real difference for Cardiff almost overnight is if you improved its accessibility, particularly from the M4," said Mr Price, director of aviation strategy at consultants Mott MacDonald.

The airport is situated at Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan, about a 15-mile drive from Cardiff city centre, largely along single-lane roads. Getting there by train from Swansea involves a change at Bridgend and then a shuttle bus from Rhoose train station.

"Location and market size make an airport attractive to an airline," said Mr Price.

Cardiff Airport, like many in the UK, has seen a decline in passenger numbers.

First Minister Carwyn Jones has said there will be no state aid for the airport, but added that without future investment it will close.

The idea is for the Welsh Government to own the airport itself and get a commercial operator to run it.

"This is not a vanity project," he told BBC Radio Wales. "If there is no investment in the future the airport will close. It's possible to create a (business) model where there is a return to the taxpayer and, of course, a profit for a commercial operator.

"Under no circumstances will the Welsh taxpayer be asked to subsidise the operating cost of the airport."

Up until the 1980s almost all aerodromes in the UK were publicly owned by the British Airports Authority, which later became private company BAA during a period of airport privatisation in the late 1980s.

Three of the largest UK airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, are privately-owned. Some are publicly owned, like Manchester and Newquay in Cornwall, while others are public-private.

Andrew Potter, of Cardiff Business School, told the Post there was no conclusive evidence as to which ownership model worked best.

"A lot of it comes down to the management, as much as the ownership," said Dr Potter, lecturer in transport and logistics.

He added: "In the case of Cardiff, the decline in passenger numbers is one of the fundamental problems."

Airports earn money by charging airline operators to fly through them, renting out or leasing land, and charging retailers to set up shop inside.

Asked what potential risk there might be in the Welsh Government owning Cardiff Airport, Dr Potter said: "If you can't turn it around, who covers those losses?"

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  • Philosoraptor  |  December 23 2012, 7:23PM

    Brochadav, the only reason it didn't work out is because the Government funds the London airports, Bristol and Edinburgh. Soon, even Bristol and Edinburgh will suffer as both Labour and Tories complete their great plan by removing subsiding from Bristol and Edinburgh so that all international flights go through the London centric airports. Terminal 5 is designed to kill off Bristol and Edinburgh after the funding changes take place. However, if WAG run Cardiff Airport as a not for profit company it could undercut even Stanstead!

  • brochadav  |  December 20 2012, 8:32PM

    If a private business has failed to make the airport viable, why does Carwyn Jones think the WAG buying it and leasing it out will make it work? Who is going to pay to lease a loss making business. It will only ever cost the tax payer more money. Better to buy it and build more houses. Maybe the WAG should try putting decent quality housing up and generating income from rent. Lets face it, Wales doesn't need an international airport when Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, and the London airports are only a few hours drive from almost anywhere in Wales. It'll be another case of good money after bad because of a flawed principle. Besides, it's about time WAG money was spread around a bit more with the majority not just being spent in one corner of the Principality.

  • KP287  |  December 20 2012, 8:09PM

    Was going to comment, but Legs and Co just appeared on TV (1977 Top of The Pops)...

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  • SAswan  |  December 20 2012, 12:27PM

    if the welsh taxpayers are going to own this airport it should be renamed and called the south wales regional airport

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  • Philosoraptor  |  December 20 2012, 10:38AM

    I find it odd that there has been little talk of the need for supporting ventures to make a major venture successfully viable. It is a method that is becoming increasingly used in business. For an airport like this, owned by the Welsh Government, they could use a form of subsidy by earning money from housing rent. The way this would work is that the Welsh Government pays for new housing which is needed, and which would not be covered by the same costs to the purchase of the airport but come from it's own budget (just like the £300M being spent to update council housing). The rent proceeds then go towards funding the airport, including maintenance of transport links. These subsidising ventures are intended to support more than just one particular other venture, they are done to support a wider variety of other ventures as well, for this case... housing issues as well. Apple are doing this, they are now buying their factories so the manufacturing venture supports their retail venture and also supports their software venture. The tidal wave that was outsourcing is slowly retreating back into the ocean, the WAG needs to consider this sort of option.

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  • thumperjones  |  December 20 2012, 9:16AM

    Cardiff Airport needs better transport links, expert says no sugar sherlock,what is he ? an expert in the obvious i would suggest. the airports public transport links are pathetic if coming from the west or north of the airport. i find it much easier to get to Bristol airport.

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  • maxmin  |  December 20 2012, 7:40AM

    I find it strange that a 'consultant' needed to be hired when passengers have been saying this for years.

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