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Cornish Airlink To Be Saved?

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Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 4:49pm 21st October 2013.

Cornwall's airlink with London could get government protection.

Officials have met to discuss a subsidy for the Newquay to Gatwick route.

At the moment, it is due to come to an end in March when Flybe pulls out.

Supporters argue that it is essential for the Duchy's economy.

Cornwall Council released this statement:

Cornwall Council has held initial discussions with the Department for Transport regarding the possibility of the Government providing a subsidy on the route between Newquay and London to help secure the long term future of this vital air link.

Following the decision by Flybe on 23 May 2013 that it was to terminate its service between Newquay and Gatwick at the end of March 2014, the Council has been involved in a number of commercially negotiations with other airlines to secure the future of this route. Although these discussions remain on-going with other operators, the Council is also exploring other options to ensure the service is maintained, including a Public Service Obligation (PSO).

Imposing a PSO on the route between Newquay and London would mean the Government providing a subsidy to an operator to deliver the connection for a four year period.  This would provide a much more secure future for the route than the current situation which relies on the commercial decisions of an operator.

"While there is no guarantee that the Government will support this application, all initial pointers from the Department for Transport have been positive and we believe we meet the necessary criteria”" said Adam Paynter, the Council's Cabinet Member for Partnerships.  

The formal process, which is governed by EU regulations, requires the Council to seek competitive bids from airlines and present the case to the Government to provide financial support for one of these.

"Although our aim is to tender for a new service to begin on 1 April 2014, the length of the formal process means that it is possible that it would not be in place until later in the summer. This would result in a short break in service" said Adam Paynter. "While we recognise that this would create short term difficulties for regular travellers, starting the application process earlier would not have been practical as an essential requirement for a PSO is the exhaustion of all commercial alternative options. However, if successful, this will help us secure the long term future of this vital route.

"The Department of Transport is very aware of the issues which we are facing and the need for a decision to be made as quickly as possible."

The Council is continuing to work closely with the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership on this issue.  The Chairman of the Partnership Chris Pomfret said: "The provision of a regular year-round service from Newquay to a London hub airport with a schedule that works for business is vital to the economy of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The LEP fully supports this move to try and secure a PSO on the route and we will shortly issue a call for evidence to local businesses to help argue the case for air links to a London hub airport."

Stephen Gilbert MP is supporting this approach: "The Newquay London air route is crucial for the Cornish economy underpinning millions of pounds of investment and thousands of jobs" he said. "I will be working closely with the business community and the Council to ensure Government support, if needed, is delivered and will be meeting Treasury and Transport ministers to discuss this further this week."

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