Advertisement

  1. ITV Report

Government cricitised for 'failure' of £285.5m remote island airport

Commercial aircraft have been unable to use the new airport on the South Atlantic territory of St Helena. Credit: PA

A remote island airport which cost the British taxpayer £285.5m has been labelled a 'failure', in a damning report by MPs.

Commercial aircraft have been unable to use the new airport on the South Atlantic territory of St Helena because of the dangerous wind conditions.

The influential Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said it was "staggering" that ministers and officials did not foresee the problem.

Government lawyers are now understood to be examining some of the decisions taken during the course of the project.

The PAC has demanded answers from the Department for International Development (DfID) about who was responsible for the fiasco and how much it would end up costing taxpayers.

International Development Secretary Priti Patel has vowed to ensure that lessons will be learned, DfID said.

The airport was meant to start operating in May 2016 but test flights a month before revealed the problems with "wind shear".

The PAC report said the project had "unquestionably failed" the British taxpayer and the residents of the remote island it was meant to serve.

The department was evasive on the question of who should be held responsible, and is yet to hold anyone to account, either internally or externally for the failure to identify this fundamental issue. Nor has it identified the extent or cost of remedial action required.

There is also doubt over whether the airport, when operational, will lead to St Helena becoming financially self-sufficient, due to significant uncertainties over projected tourist growth figures and a lack of progress toward attracting investment.

– Public Accounts Committee report

So far 18 flights have successfully landed at the airport, including three medical flights, and the St Helena government has released a tender for air services for a three-year period.

The UK overseas territory can only be reached by sea and the new airport was meant to improve accessibility and boost tourism, with the intention of making the island self-sufficient.