Cardiff Airport: Carwyn Jones to encourage new routes with operators?

This is from Sunday’s news:

The first minister has confirmed he has met commercial operators with an interest in buying a stake in the struggling Cardiff airport.

Carwyn Jones said a “medium to long term” strategy has been discussed with potential investors.

The Welsh government stepped in and bought the airport in March after passenger numbers slumped.

But Mr Jones told The Wales Report with Huw Edwards they wanted someone to share the running of the airport.

He said: “What we are looking at is for a commercial operator to come in to run the airport, perhaps come into partnership with us – maybe buy half of the airport if I can put it so crudely – so the money comes back quickly.

“There’s interest out there – I have met with large operators who have that interest.” […]

You can watch the interview with the First Minister at the beginning of The Wales Report on iPlayer.

Good relationships with operators are vital to the success of Cardiff Airport. The figures will only have a chance of dramatically picking up if there are a range of better routes on offer. Routes, routes, routes! To be clear, local fiddling with improvements to transport links will not boost the demand. We’ve stated this before on this website. Here’s a video clip explaining why:

And here’s a transcript of the video.

Express bus service from Cardiff Centre to Airport – from August

It’s superb to see this South Wales Evening Post report:

An express bus service from Cardiff to Cardiff Airport is due to get up and running in August, the First Minister has said.

A commitment to such a service was first set out by the Welsh Government in 2009, according to the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
Lib Dem AM Eluned Parrott said she was pleased to hear the August start time but expressed disappointment at how long it had been on the cards.

She said 1.6 million passengers used Cardiff Airport in 2009, but last year that number dipped under the million mark. […]

You can read the full story here.

We haven’t been able to find any other references to this announcement yet, let alone any details of the frequency of services.

But if it does happen, this will more than make up for the withdrawal of the Cardiff Bus service on Sundays.

Indeed, considering all of the ideas that have been mooted for local transport to the airport, the express bus is a relatively inexpensive investment with benefits that will be seen almost straightaway.

Even with regular services, it won’t be a panacea for the airport’s problems. But it is a very good – and perhaps overdue – idea which will help to improve the experience of using Cardiff Airport for many.

Time to consider a Cardiff Airport express bus

It’s a pity the Sunday bus service to Cardiff Airport has been cancelled. Unfortunately, according to the piece, it seems that the operator Cardiff Bus were not able to get hold of Welsh Government to have discussions.

As part of efforts to revive the airport it’s the perfect time to consider the idea of an express bus from Cardiff city centre to the airport.

This could speedily transport not only bus passengers but also passengers who’ve arrived in Cardiff by train. It’s worth noting that Bristol Airport runs its own express bus known as the Flyer. According to the Bristol Airport website:

The journey time to the city centre is approximately 30 minutes, with services operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At peak times, buses depart up to every 10 minutes from key locations including Bristol Airport, Temple Meads and Bristol Bus Station.

It seems like a popular offering too. According to Bristol Airport’s magazine Your Airport:

Over 600,000 passengers used Bristol Airport’s Flyer bus in the 12 months to the end of August (2011) – the highest ever number of public transport journeys to and from the Airport in a rolling year.

An express bus service would make travel to the airport much more convenient for potential travellers. Local sustainable transport is among the factors which contribute to the competitiveness of the airport and something that the new management team would be well advised to look at.

Conservatives in Wales: better bus services to Cardiff Airport are needed

In case you missed it the Conservative party in Wales have published a report called A Blueprint For Cardiff Airport. WalesOnline ran a piece on Monday and if you’d like to delve right in you can read the Conservatives’ press release and the report itself in English (PDF) or in Welsh (PDF).

As well as some productive recommendations regarding routes, marketing and the devolution of Air Passenger Duty it was encouraging to see this:

[…] Cardiff Airport pales in comparison to its rivals in terms of access provision. With its own infrastructure restrictions in terms of road access, Bristol Airport provides an express bus from the centre of Bristol to the airport that operates 24 hours a day at intervals of ten minutes at peak time. The charges for this are relatively high with an adult return costing £11, but due to the high demand for the service and other alternatives being more costly, these charges are competitive. In 2012, 690,373 passengers used this service. Similarly Liverpool John Lennon Airport benefits from a designated bus service every half hour from Liverpool City Centre.

In the short term Cardiff Airport needs a more efficient and regular bus connection at least twice an hour at peak time from Cardiff City Centre. In addition, Greyhound coaches now offer a South Wales service to and from Bristol Airport which stops at Swansea, Bridgend, Cardiff and Newport. No equivalent is present for Cardiff Airport. A similar service run by a private operator should be implemented for Cardiff Airport.

A regular Cardiff City Centre bus service is the first step to improving airport connectivity. This service would require a relatively substantial initial investment to cover start-up costs, but any investment would be to the benefit of the airport. Currently the Welsh Government subsidises £100,000 of the costs of the 905 link from Rhoose station to the airport. This is a route fewer than 2.5 miles. We believe that this investment would be better placed as part of a regular route from Cardiff City Centre, for example to increase the X91 route from every two hours to twice an hour.

Branding and promotion are also important in order to improve public awareness of the service. Currently 9% of passengers travel to Cardiff Airport by bus or coach. We would aim to double this figure under a more frequent bus option. […]

It would be superb to see better bus services, as also recommended by the Liberal Democrat Assembly Member Eluned Parrott. They’d be relatively easy and cheap to introduce too. The writer of the report seems a little less sure about rail ‘improvements’ finally concluding that:

[…] Whilst surface infrastructure investment around the airport is clearly important, road and rail are costly developments which we believe are best placed as long term investments. […]

As we’ve pointed out before, the costs of rail work are not just huge in financial and environmental terms but would have a negative impact on the ordinary rail services between the Vale and Cardiff. That’s assuming we’re talking about something resembling the rail spur in the Vale’s Local Development Plan of last year – which is now defunct anyway.

By the way Sunday’s edition of the Wales Report on BBC One with Huw Edwards had a fairly good item summarising the challenges of the Airport for the Welsh Government (item starts at 17 mins 30 secs on iPlayer) – making the sensible suggestion that investment in new routes to attract passengers is the main thing that’s needed.

Further discussions about Cardiff Airport

A big meeting organised by Western Gateway was held on Monday 20th May 2013, with the First Minister of Wales, Carwyn Jones, in attendance. We are still going over our notes on the meeting and will report on mentions and consequences for the railway spur or the Vale line soon. In the meantime, here are a couple of links to media reports on the meeting:

The BBC reports on proposals being put forward by Western Gateway to see Cardiff Airport as a long haul hub airport.

Wales Online also reports on claims for Cardiff Airport’s long haul potential and focuses on pressure to reduce Air Passenger Duty.

Cardiff airport isn’t the only air transport solution that has been discussed recently. The Institute of Welsh Affairs has released a report focussing on the potential for a Severnside airport to eventually replace both Cardiff and Bristol airport.

Cardiff Airport want your feedback

Cardiff Airport are asking for your opinions on how they could improve their service. Do take a moment to give them some feedback.

Don’t forget to mention particular air routes that you would like to see added – in an ideal world. The outcome depends not only on the airport but operators’ willingness to work with them. The airport people will at least read your comment, so you just never know!

(We’re sharing this because it’s of interest to supporters of the Stop The Spur campaign. Obviously if you have a message for the airport then please send it directly.)



The idea of an express bus service to Cardiff Airport

There has been plenty of coverage about the Welsh Government’s acquisition of Cardiff Airport. Earlier this week we saw how the number of passengers has just dipped below one million per year.

Further down that BBC story there’s an interesting quotation from Eluned Parrott who is the local Liberal Democrat Assembly Member:

[…] Welsh Liberal Democrat business spokeswoman Eluned Parrott had hoped Mrs Hart would bring forward plans for an express bus service from central Cardiff to the airport.

“This bus link is vital,” she said.

“A direct high quality bus service from Swansea to Bristol Airport via Cardiff will shortly be launched without any taxpayer assistance.

“The Welsh government really does need to start their service, which was first announced almost four years ago, as soon as possible.” […]

This express bus seems like a very good idea to us at the Stop The Spur campaign. Whereas people often like to take a car or at least get a car lift to ease transport of luggage, an express bus could be a good value method of increasing local travel options. It comes without the serious problems associated with a rail spur (burden on the rail line, significant damage to the local environment and huge financial costs – to name three!).

Here’s another thing that would improve local transport options. We in the Vale of Glamorgan are all looking forward to the twice hourly rail service that will run on the Vale line, which is scheduled to begin in 2014. It will mean you can get to the Rhoose Cardiff International Airport station by train and then jump on the excellent shuttle bus between the station and the airport. People tend to forget about the shuttle bus – it’s a reason why a rail spur as suggested in the old Local Development Plan is just not needed.

We offer these comments advisedly though. A new express bus service running from Cardiff centre, while welcome, would not be enough to revive the airport. As the airport management and others have said repeatedly, there is a relative shortage of air routes and flights. Only when the airport manages to attract more operators and extend the choice available will we start to see a real change in fortunes.

Transport to and from the airport, while relevant to the discussion, is less of an issue. As we’ve highlighted before, when surveyed only 3% of customers stated that accessibility of the airport was a reason not to choose Cardiff Airport compared to 57% citing choice of destinations or choice of flights as the reasons for picking another airport. It makes complete sense when you think about it. Here’s the pie chart from that market research which we reproduced last year:

By the way there’s a fuller comment from Parrott about the express bus proposal, on her website. It’s a good time for her to be reminding the Welsh Government of this proposal – and it would be superb to see the express bus happen.

New chairman at Cardiff Airport calls for routes, which ones would you like?

This has been a historic week for the airport, now that the Welsh Government have bought it for £52m.

Today’s news is that the new chairman Lord Rowe-Beddoe, formerly of the well regarded Welsh Development Agency, has said that the airport need to ‘get cracking’ on attracting flights:

THE new chairman of Cardiff Airport today said they need to “get cracking” on attracting more airlines following its sale to the Welsh Government.

Lord Rowe-Beddoe, who was appointed chairman of the new airport board yesterday, said it was key to attract more airlines to Cardiff, potentially driving down flight prices.

He told BBC Radio Wales: “We will be looking at that and improving the customer experience with the facilities of the airport. And most of all getting airlines to use it again.” […]

He also has the challenge of retaining the routes and flights that are currently operating.

If you’re on Facebook we’re started a quick poll on the Stop The Spur page to survey which destinations you’d most like to see served. Go and vote for one!

The future of Cardiff Airport depends on air routes

For those who would like to see Cardiff Airport thrive BBC News Wales has a disheartening item today :

[…] Swiss carrier Helvetic is pulling out of Cardiff Airport, two years after the Welsh government spent £500,000 marketing Wales in Switzerland.

Helvetic started flying to Zurich from Cardiff in 2011, but had already dropped winter services after low demand and will not fly this summer. […]

BBC Radio Wales also covered the news of Helvetic’s withdrawal and there’s a audio clip from this morning.

The accompanying news that operator Vueling is to increase services to Malaga and Alicante is a small consolation. We also note the recent reports of a possible new route to Hawarden in north east Wales once work on the new terminal there is completed.

As we’ve maintained from the start and as Cardiff Airport themselves have stated, air routes are the MOST important factor in the success or failure of the Airport.

That is, tinkering with the railway in the Vale of Glamorgan through the adding of a spur is not the answer – and would be a source of other big problems as we’ve outlined in previous posts here. In particular, can the daily commuters who live in the Vale be reassured that the rail services – already squeezed – will not be threatened by the addition of a needless extra burden on the line? We’ll have to wait for the new draft LDP from the Council before knowing for sure.

Welsh Government to buy Cardiff Airport

Who saw this coming?

Cardiff Airport will be bought by the Welsh Government, it has been announced.

First Minister Carwyn Jones revealed on Twitter today that a deal had reached with owners TBI to bring the struggling airport into public ownership.

TBI is a company owned by Spanish conglomerate Abertis (90%) and AENA (10%), the Spanish airports operator.

The nationalisation of the airport comes after a torrid few years which have seen declining passenger numbers and the loss of a number of key routes.

Mr Jones has spoken frequently of his dissatisfaction at the airport’s performance, which he labelled “not good enough” in March.

And in October, Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood called for a public stake in the airport.

The Welsh Government will now enter an exclusive period of due diligence that it said would take into account “financial, legal and vale for money considerations”.

Full story on WalesOnline today