THE publicly funded air service between Cardiff- Ynys Mon will not resume after a two-year suspension.
The Public Service Obligation (PSO) air service, which has been suspended since March 2020 due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic will not restart, following a decision by Welsh Ministers.
Instead of spending up to £2.9m 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.
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, £4 million worth of funding for Bangor University to pioneer cutting-edge technology to develop better broadband coverage in rural areas has also been announced.
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 should now offersa much more attractive proposition for those who still need to travel on business between the north and the south.
However, Member of the Senedd for Ynys Môn, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, has expressed his disappointment.
He said: “I am extremely disappointed with the Welsh Government’s announcement today and my thoughts are with the staff who are going to be losing their jobs.
“I’ve shown that I’m realistic about the challenges that the air service faces – the fact that the pandemic has reduced the need to travel for business and our growing concern about climate change. But, my question to Government was: if not the air link, then what will the Government be offering instead, and where will they be investing to ensure faster north-south connectivity, especially via rail? The answer, obviously, is nothing!
“Every penny of the money spent on the air link should go towards improving north-south transport connectivity, but that commitment is not there. This is a real kick in the teeth for efforts to unite us as a nation through the transport system and I and Plaid Cymru will continue to make the case for that.”
This decision is part of the efforts for Wales to meet its immediate climate targets.
“We need to achieve greater reductions in our emissions in the next decade than we’ve achieved over the course of the last three decades if we are to avert catastrophic climate change. It’s going to an uphill challenge and difficult choices will need to be confronted” Mr Waters added.
The Welsh Government has established a North Wales Transport Commission that has 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 £2.9m 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 aim to 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.