A feasibility study investigating the potential of re-introducing scheduled air services from the Isle of Skye was published today (Tuesday).
A key recommendation is the setting up of a Steering Group of interested partners, including the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland, to further examine the findings of the study.
The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and HITRANS jointly commissioned RDC Aviation and ARUP to undertake a review of the potential for re-establishing scheduled air services to and from the Ashaig airstrip in Broadford, which is owned by the Council. The Isle of Skye has been without a scheduled air service since 1988 when a Loganair service to Glasgow ended.
The study looked at the demand for air services, including what people would be prepared to pay; potential airport and aircraft options and the capital and operating cost of these; and the overall business case.
The key findings of the feasibility study will be presented to The Highland Council’s Transport Environment and Community Services Committee on Thursday 14 March. They include:
a forecast demand of 21,500 passengers per year;
four options for creating the infrastructure and the minimum capital investment required, ranging from £2.3m to £15.3m;
Twin Otters, Trislanders and Dornier 228 with a capacity of 19 seats can operate within the 750m length restrictions of the current airstrip.
a 12 x weekly service for a 19-seat aircraft would have a capacity of 23,712 seats per annum.
The Ashaig Airstrip is currnetly used by light aircraft but at 771m long and 23m wide, the report concludes it would need substantial upgrading to handle scheduled flights.
Councillor Graham Phillips, Chairman of the TEC Services Committee, said: “This project has attracted a lot of interest at a local level and was raised with the First Minister on his visit to Skye last year. The results of the study highlight that the introduction of a scheduled air service has the potential to provide significant economic benefits to the island and the wider Highland area. As well as creating new local jobs and opportunities visitors would have the opportunity to connect to a wide range of destinations making the Highlands a very accessible year-round holiday destination.
“Due to the amount of both capital and revenue investment needed, it is important we clearly understand what is involved in terms of the infrastructure and facilities required before decisions on investment can be made. Detailed investigations need to be carried out but there is no doubt this is a really exciting project.”
Ranald Robertson, Director of HITRANS, said: “The findings of this feasibility study indicate real demand for a return of air services from Skye to the central belt. In achieving this goal there will need to be investment in the facilities at Ashaig and support for the operating costs of the route. We look forward to working with partners, including Transport Scotland, with a view to achieving this goal.”
Stuart MacPherson from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, said: “The report highlights the interest in and benefits of a service and provides robust information on costs and sustainability which can be further built upon. HIE would be happy to participate in a formal working group, should this be established.”