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Report says Anglesey air link needs more passengers

The plane has 19 seats but averages 10 passengers on each flight Photo: Linksair

The Assembly's public accounts committee says more needs to be done to get value for money from the £1 million a year that the Welsh Government spends on subsidising the Cardiff-Anglesey air link. Roughly 10 passengers on average are on each flight, although the service uses a 19 seater aircraft for two return trips a day between Cardiff and RAF Valley.

The AMs found that the new contract signed with Airlinks last year is better value than the agreements with previous operators. The maximum subsidy is less and there's more requirement to market the route. There was some concern about whether the contract was advertised widely enough but the Welsh Government says all operators with suitable aircraft were contacted.

Passenger numbers for the air service are still disappointing so we were pleased that the Welsh Government responded positively to our interim report in requiring extra marketing for the service in the new contract.

The Welsh Government should monitor the new marketing arrangements, along with passenger numbers and their profile, to secure increasing numbers of passengers in the future and ultimately provide a better return for the public subsidy invested in the service.

– Darren Millar AM, Chair of Public Accounts Committee

The report founds that 78% of passengers are making business trips, most of them are in the public sector, with 13% employed by the Welsh Government. 14% were visiting friends and family, with 4% making "other" use of the flight, including tourism. It suggests looking at the possibility of introducing flights between Cardiff and Hawarden in Flintshire at weekends, when the training base at RAF Valley is closed.

Switching all flights to Hawarden is ruled out. Although it's in a more heavily populated area, there's more competition from trains that travel between Cardiff and Chester in three hours. That could also lead to the air subsidy falling foul of the EU's state aid rules. In any case, Hawarden's owners, Airbus, won't allow daily scheduled flights to use its runway, although the Cardiff-Anglesey service is allowed to divert there when RAF Valley is closed for maintenance.

As a result of today's report, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have renewed their call for the service to be scrapped.

Today we see yet another report highlighting just how much of a farce the Anglesey air link is.

Labour Ministers have poured millions into subsidising this wasteful and polluting service, with little to no gain for people in North Wales. Passenger numbers are 35% lower now than at their peak in 2008, yet money is still spent on this service instead of improving our woeful rail and bus networks.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have always been clear: we would scrap the £3,700-a-day subsidy of this pointless air link, and reinvest the money to improve bus and train services for the people of Wales.

– Welsh Liberal Democrat Transport Spokesperson Eluned Parrott AM