Cardiff Airport needs better transport links, expert says
CARDIFF Airport needs better transport links — Welsh-Government owned or not — an expert has said.
Airport planning consultant Laurie Price was speaking in the wake of Tuesday's Welsh Government announcement that it aimed to buy the airport from TBI, currently owned by the Spanish company Abertis.
"The thing that would make a real difference for Cardiff almost overnight is if you improved its accessibility, particularly from the M4," said Mr Price, director of aviation strategy at consultants Mott MacDonald.
The airport is situated at Rhoose in the Vale of Glamorgan, about a 15-mile drive from Cardiff city centre, largely along single-lane roads. Getting there by train from Swansea involves a change at Bridgend and then a shuttle bus from Rhoose train station.
"Location and market size make an airport attractive to an airline," said Mr Price.
Cardiff Airport, like many in the UK, has seen a decline in passenger numbers.
First Minister Carwyn Jones has said there will be no state aid for the airport, but added that without future investment it will close.
The idea is for the Welsh Government to own the airport itself and get a commercial operator to run it.
"This is not a vanity project," he told BBC Radio Wales. "If there is no investment in the future the airport will close. It's possible to create a (business) model where there is a return to the taxpayer and, of course, a profit for a commercial operator.
"Under no circumstances will the Welsh taxpayer be asked to subsidise the operating cost of the airport."
Up until the 1980s almost all aerodromes in the UK were publicly owned by the British Airports Authority, which later became private company BAA during a period of airport privatisation in the late 1980s.
Three of the largest UK airports, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, are privately-owned. Some are publicly owned, like Manchester and Newquay in Cornwall, while others are public-private.
Andrew Potter, of Cardiff Business School, told the Post there was no conclusive evidence as to which ownership model worked best.
"A lot of it comes down to the management, as much as the ownership," said Dr Potter, lecturer in transport and logistics.
He added: "In the case of Cardiff, the decline in passenger numbers is one of the fundamental problems."
Airports earn money by charging airline operators to fly through them, renting out or leasing land, and charging retailers to set up shop inside.
Asked what potential risk there might be in the Welsh Government owning Cardiff Airport, Dr Potter said: "If you can't turn it around, who covers those losses?"