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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 10:12 GMT
North-south airline is revealed
A Highland Airways aircraft
The airline operates services between the highlands and islands
A Scottish company has been confirmed as the intended operator of a new daily air link between north and south Wales.

Highland Airways, based in Inverness, is to run two weekday return flights from Anglesey to Cardiff, the assembly government confirmed.

Enterprise Minister Andrew Davies announced their intention to award the contract, subject to a statutory objection period.

The flights will cost around 50 each way and begin in the spring.

Enterprise minister Andrew Davies said the service will offer better business links and tourism opportunities.

Mr Davies said the airport was " an important step forward in the continued economic development of north west Wales".

Subsidised service

"Air services have an important role to play in the framework of an integrated transport system, and as minister I cam keen to exploit their full potential".

The new air service - which will be subsided for three years - will offer one return flight from north to south Wales from Monday to Friday.

A maximum of 36 passengers will be accommodated in each direction and single tickets will cost up to 50, without any airport tax.

Anglesey Council has also announced its intention to offer a three year airport contract to Operon to run the airport out of the RAF Valley base where a new 1.5m terminal has been built.

There have seen a number of attempts at linking north and south Wales by air in the past, but none have ever lasted for a significant period of time.

The assembly government gave the latest scheme its backing after a 2004 consultation exercise found there was a strong need for the service.

The following year the route was recognised as a Public Service Obligation Flight (PSO) by the Department of Transport, enabling the assembly government to subsidise it.

Plans for up to 10 flights a day from the new terminal at the RAF base in Valley were approved by Anglesey councillors in June 2006.

Cardiff airport
Ten companies tendered to run the link with Cardiff International Airport

Prof Stuart Cole, director of Wales Transport Research Centre, said there were arguments both for and against the air link.

He said if the expected assembly government subsidy of 1.6m for the air service was spent on the railways, the improvements could be massive.

"There is a capital scheme to be introduced on the railway costing 120m but the trains are already running - the government is already subsiding the train."

But Russell Goodway, chief executive of the Cardiff Chamber of Commerce, said north-south air route was a "political imperative".

"The business community understands that since 1999 we've been engaged in a major project of nation building and one of the key features of that has to be to efficiently get from one end of the country to the other without having to go into another country," he said.

The exact amount of the assembly government subsidy will be announced when the contract is finalised.

But that will have to end and the service will only continue if it is commercially viable.

Friends of the Earth Cymru said the money would be better spent on improving rail services.

Director Julian Rosser said: A public subsidy could greatly improve train journey times between Bangor and Cardiff benefiting hundreds of people who take the train.

"Instead, the assembly government is using our money to help the privileged few.

Air link to begin 'within a year'
28 Feb 06 |  North West Wales

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