The Welsh Assembly Government have axed a daily public service air route between Ynys Mon, North Wales and South Wales, instead focusing on the “Gerald” premium rail service.
The Public Service Obligation (PSO) air service, which has been suspended since March 2020 due to the impacts of the COVID pandemic will not restart, following a decision by Welsh Ministers.
Instead of spending up to £2.9 million each year to fund the air service, the Welsh Government will look to invest this saving in helping to deliver a package of measures to improve public transport services for the north.
The decision means that there will now be no commercial air service of any sort in North Wales.
77% of the people who travelled on the air service used it for work purposes but changes in home working have now shifted working arrangements. With the move online Ministers are also announcing £4 million worth of funding for Bangor University to pioneer cutting-edge technology to develop better broadband coverage in rural areas.
The University’s Digital Signal Processing (DSP) Centre of Excellence is being funded to bring 5G broadband connections through fibre optic cables into harder to reach areas. The university is working with a consortium of companies to increase the capacity and enhance the sensing ability of fibre optic cables used to deliver faster and more reliable mobile broadband. This will be trialled with more than 400 premises on Ynys Mon that do not have access to superfast broadband.
Deputy Minister for Climate Change, with responsibility for transport, Lee Waters said: “The pandemic has driven huge change to the way people work, with a reduction in business travel over the past few years.
“We don’t think passenger levels will return to a level that makes this service viable economically or environmentally. Instead we will invest the money saved from running the service into improving public transport in north Wales. This will benefit more people and help us reach our Net Zero target by 2050.”
The decision follows the outcome of an independent study commissioned by the Welsh Government into the carbon impact of the service on the environment. The study showed the service had a more negative impact on the environment than any other form of travel between Ynys Mon and Cardiff, unless it was flying close to full capacity every day, which, given the significant reduction in business travel since the pandemic, would be very highly unlikely.
The analysis also showed that despite common perceptions, the air service was not always the fastest link to Cardiff from north Wales, especially east of Bangor, where rail travel is actually faster, door-to-door. The Welsh Government’s investment in new rail carriages, with Wi-Fi, comfortable workspaces and on-board catering, means that the Holyhead-Cardiff rail service now offers a much more attractive proposition for those who still need to travel on business between the north and the south.
This decision follows the news yesterday that despite Wales being on track with our immediate climate targets, there is still much more that needs to be done.
The Welsh Government has established a North Wales Transport Commission that has already begun looking at options to build more efficient, high-quality connections across and into north Wales, and the multi-million-pound Metro programme is pressing ahead.
Ministers have decided to use the £2.9 million funding earmarked for the air-link to accelerate work on north-south connectivity within the North Wales Metro programme, including faster progress on the Holyhead Masterplan, Bangor Gateway and Wrexham Gateway, alongside work towards new station development at Broughton and Greenfield.
The plans also bring forward work to improve rail journey times and service between Holyhead and Cardiff and improve integration with other sustainable modes of travel along the route, to meet the Welsh Government’s ambitions for four trains per hour on the North Wales Main Line and easier, faster rail access to South Wales. The work will also look at options for doubling the bus service frequency between Caernarfon and Porthmadog, to improve connectivity to rail links to South and Mid-Wales.
These projects are essential steps on the path to ensuring that people can travel more easily and quickly between north and south Wales whilst helping to address the climate emergency.