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Home / Latest News / Tories outline blueprint for growth of Cardiff Airport

Tories outline blueprint for growth of Cardiff Airport

I disagreed with the Welsh Government’s plans to buy Cardiff Airport with £52m of taxpayer’s money.

There are many competing priorities for the Welsh Government, not least the financial problems besetting the NHS, the decline in standards in education and the challenges facing our high streets.

Cardiff Airport has, however, now been nationalised, and I want to see it reach its potential and become the thriving aviation hub that it could be.  So as Welsh Conservatives, we are setting out our Blueprint for Cardiff Airport.

Cardiff Airport has fallen on hard times.  Passenger numbers have halved in the past four years, while freight business fell by a staggering 98% between 2008 and 2010.

 In recent years it has seen some major air carriers, including Bmibaby and Helvetic, withdrawing services from the airport, resulting in fewer flights and a narrower range of destinations for tourists. 

In 2008, the Welsh Government ran a consultation on three options to upgrade road links to Cardiff Airport from the M4 but subsequently abandoned all three proposals due to cost.

 These factors, combined with the economic downturn from 2008 onwards, have conspired to make it even more challenging for Cardiff Airport to compete and it lost further passengers to Bristol. 

Last year, as the airport’s woes grew, we had the unedifying spectacle of the First Minister of Wales publicly rubbishing Cardiff Airport, paving the way for an aggressive takeover from the Welsh Government.

A Welsh Conservative Government would not have bought Cardiff Airport, but now it is a public asset we want to make it a success.  We have set out a clear and ambitious blueprint for the future to increase the value of the airport, to sell it back to the private sector, return their original investment to taxpayers and allow them to share in the proceeds of growth.

 Every taxpayer in Wales invested £38.50 in Cardiff Airport, albeit without their consent.

Under our plans every taxpayer will get their money back.  We would also share the profits of the airport’s sale between taxpayers and investment in infrastructure to make it easier for more tourists and business travellers to get to Cardiff Airport.

Aiming to at least double the airport’s value is ambitious.  We have five key measures which will help us achieve this bold ambition.

Firstly, we want to increase the range of flights on offer so we’d create an Airlines’ Director who can focus on attracting airlines with new routes to come to Cardiff.  Cardiff Airport did a survey asking people what reasons they had for not flying from Cardiff.  57% said it was because of choice of destinations or flights.

This demonstrates the importance of having a broad selection of routes to places people want to travel.  One lever to attract airlines to fly from Cardiff would be the devolution of Air Passenger Duty, which the Welsh Government could cut or abolish for certain tariffs. 

We would examine the case for slashing Air Passenger Duty for domestic or long-haul flights, which would be a great shot in the arm for the airport’s competitiveness.  We called for Air Passenger Duty to be devolved in our submission to the Silk Commission, whose report is being considered by the UK Government.

We would spend the Welsh Government’s marketing budget differently by targeting potentially lucrative markets and take advantage of links to Cardiff Airport through Schiphol.

 In addition to our long-term goal of improving road infrastructure to Cardiff Airport, we would more immediately address the difficulties in public transport access by making the sometimes two-hourly X91 bus services far more regular.  We would also work with the airport to offer competitive rates to local, regional and international businesses for freight transfer.

As the official opposition, we are ambitious for Cardiff Airport.  It has massive potential for expansion and could even serve as, effectively, a Terminal 6 for Heathrow as the gateway to the Atlantic. 

After a period of revitalisation, we want to see the airport returned to the private sector where it can be owned and managed by entrepreneurs and aviation experts.  In so doing, we can repay Welsh taxpayers whose £52m investment bought the airport in the first place.  Our ambitious plan will allow the people of Wales to get their money back.

Byron Davies is the Shadow Minister for Transport and Assembly Member for South Wales West.

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