Infrastructure around Cardiff Airport could receive a much-needed makeover in the coming months, thanks to a ‘vote of confidence’ from the European Commission (EC). The EC will allow the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to offer the Rhoose hub a one-time 'gift' of £5m.
However, the future of the bursary is in the hands of the Welsh transport minister, Carl Sargeant, who could still subject the proposal to revision.
Cardiff Airport’s access problems became known in late 2010, when Flybe boss, Mike Rutter, said that the quality of roads and railways around the Rhoose hub was giving holidaymakers “an excuse” to travel to other airports in the region, such as Bristol.
Poor access, and indeed, the presence of better-connected rivals, is a major concern for British airports. Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster has endured inadequate local infrastructure since the first flight took off from the Yorkshire hub in 2005, while Stansted Airport has witnessed the defection of several airlines to better-connected airport, Gatwick. Belfast International in Ireland has lost business to rival, Belfast City, due to the latter’s proximity to the centre of Belfast.
Ieuan Wyn Jones, Deputy First Minister of the WAG, applied for funding for Cardiff’s access project in March 2011, shortly before his responsibilities were transferred to transport minister, Carl Sargeant.
A link to the M4 motorway is imperative for Cardiff, but improved motorway access may only be part of the solution to the Welsh hub’s woes. Holidaymakers from London and the southeast must travel within ten miles of Bristol Airport to arrive at Cardiff, via the M4. Cardiff, therefore, needs a series of new, unique routes to encourage travellers to eschew the convenience of Bristol Airport, for the novelty of a flight from South Wales.
Unfortunately, as of June 13 2011, the airport’s list of beneficiaries (and inbound airlines) is somewhat lacking, and the access scheme is no closer to realisation than it was in October last year.
The WAG's £5m contribution will represent just 18% of the total £26.5m required to connect the Welsh hub to the M4 motorway. TBI-Abertis, owner of Cardiff Airport, will be expected to find the remaining £21.5m required for the completion of the access project.