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5/14/2013 - West Highlands & Islands Air Route Survey


If you live or travel in and about the west Highlands & Islands, HITRANS (Highlands and Island Regional Transport Partnership) are seeking your views on a number of air routes. This is through an online survey which is running from now until 10th June 2013. The survey can be completed by both individuals and businesses.

The survey is part of a review of air services being undertaken by consultants Northpoint Aviation Services on behalf of HITRANS. The study is assessing the potential to develop a number of new or enhanced air services using available aircraft capacity. Based on the consultants’ first phase of research, the survey will collect views and information regarding potential demand for the following possible new routes:
•             Oban-Barra
•             Oban-Glasgow
•             Campbeltown-Oban.
The survey also seeks to gather views and information on potential enhancements to the existing Glasgow-Barra air service.
The greater the number of survey responses then the more solid will be the evidence against which potential demand for these air services can be assessed. Therefore, HITRANS are very keen that residents and businesses take part in the survey.
All responses to the survey will be treated in strictest confidence and the answers will only be reported at an aggregate level. The survey for each of the routes being considered will take around 10 minutes to complete.
The survey does not include potential air routes from Skye. This is because these were assessed as part of the recently completed Skye Air Services Feasibility Study. However, the findings of that study will be factored into the current study being undertaken by Northpoint.
HITRANS-The Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership Director, Ranald Robertson said “This study will provide an invaluable evidence base that will consider in detail the complex operational, regulatory and budgetary constraints which impact on the provision of air services in the Highlands and Islands. This work will also investigate the feasibility of any new operations and forecast the impact these are likely to have in terms of fleet, crewing and operating costs”  

The survey goes live on Wednesday 15th May 2013 and can be found at


Lifeline air services in the Highlands and Islands are a crucial part of the transport network. They comprise a combination of commercial routes and those supported by Public Service Obligation linking internal communities and destinations external to the region. They carry over one million passengers per annum through some 20 airfields operated by Highland and Islands Airports Ltd and Local Authorities.
Most scheduled passenger services operate commercially. The exceptions are the intra-local authority flights along with those from Glasgow to Barra, Campbeltown and Tiree. The Orkney Islands Council and Argyll and Bute Council PSO services are operated by Islander aircraft while the Comhairle PSO services are operated by Saab 340 aircraft.
The timetables and fares for those routes are set by Public Service Obligation (PSO) tendering by the public sector, with subsidy provided for them. On other intra-Scottish routes fares for qualifying residents are provided at reduced rates through the Air Discount Scheme.
Purpose of Study
Barra, Campbeltown and Tiree are currently served by a Scottish Government funded PSO air service. To ensure robustness of service delivery the Scottish Government has committed funding in their budget to procure two newly manufactured Twin Otter aircraft for these operations.   The unique beach air strip in Barra means this element of the service has to be run by aircraft with very special operational characteristics such as the Twin Otter. 
This study is considering the feasibility of also using these two aircraft but also other aircraft that may be available, to enhance existing air service provision. The study will consider the use of the PSO instrument as well as other methods of improving service levels such as the extension of the Air Discount Scheme or whether de minimis (commercial subsidy permitted under EU regulations) support would be an appropriate means of supporting air service developments. 
There are a number of route opportunities in the West Highland air network the market for which, and the resultant economic benefit, could usefully be tested using any spare airtime capacity in the system.
The consultants Northpoint Aviation have undertaken an initial review and identified a number of links that are the subject of the online survey. These options do not include opportunities from the airport at Ashaig on Skye which has already been the subject of a recent survey, the results of which will be considered as part of the wider review currently being undertaken by Northpoint Avaition. This work will investigate the feasibility of any potential new services considering the operational and resource constraints that may impact on their delivery.
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