Also exploring the possibility of a connection from Oban to Barra
People in Oban could soon benefit from new air routes, with the council’s strategic transport team having submitted a bid to the UK Government’s Department for Transport for funding to cover the start-up costs of a pilot programme of summer flights to Glasgow and Barra.
A study commissioned by the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) in 2013 recommended that these routes be explored on a trial basis, following feedback from the public and key economic and social organisations such as Transport Scotland and Highlands and Islands Air Limited (HIAL), which operates a number of airports throughout the region.
Oban Airport is a key part of the council’s overall regeneration initiative for the wider Oban and Lorn area, with nine separate projects set to go ahead over the next five years, with the first of these, a project to enable a business park development on at the airport, set to get underway in September. In the context of the potential new business park, the increased demand for transport links to the new marine science park at Dunbeg and the continued success of the airport, with passenger numbers having more than trebled since 2008, this is the right time to try and develop new, sustainable routes which will have a real benefit for the town.
Leader of the council, Councillor Dick Walsh, welcomed the news, saying: ‘’This is another great initiative coming out of the Oban area and I fully support the drive to increase the services offered by the airport. Daily flights to and from Glasgow would be a massive benefit and would support the council’s strategic vision for the Lorn area, making it far easier for people to come and do business.
‘’These are exciting times, with the business park access road set to go on-site in September. Hopefully we secure this funding from the Department for Transport but if not we will explore other ways to turn our intent into action.’’
Chair of the Oban, Lorn and the Isles Area Committee, Oban-based Councillor Roddy McCuish, said of the new funding bid: ‘’I warmly welcome the news that we are making every effort to develop the services offered by Oban Airport. At last year’s economic summit connectivity was highlighted as a key area for improvement and people in Oban can be assured that we’ll be working hard to get this air link to Glasgow.
‘’This would have significant economic benefits for the town, with people able to come from London to Oban in a day and do business. Particularly with the world class facilities at SAMS, which attracts leading scientists from around the globe, the ability to get from Glasgow to Oban in less than an hour would be fantastic.
‘’The airport has been doing really well of late, which is a testament to the hard work of the staff involved. They do a lot of great things, from providing the vital lifeline air services to the islands to smaller things like work experience for local young people and nationally accredited fire training. With the business park on the horizon the case for increased services has never been stronger. Hopefully the UK and Scottish governments will continue to support our ambitions to improve the economic prospects of the area.’’
In a letter of support for the bid Dr Tracy Shimmield, Managing Director of the research arm of the Scottish Association for Marine Science, and a member of the new Argyll and Bute Economic Forum, said: ‘’Our aim is to expand the business from a £2million turnover to £5million over the next five years; to do this we need to encourage prospective clients to visit our base in the European Marine Science Park located in Oban.
‘’Whereas this is not a massive problem for clients who have a base in the central belt of Scotland it is an issue for those that operate from farther south in the UK or from overseas. It would be a massive advantage to our business if clients and our staff could link up with flights from England and overseas through a regular flight from Oban Airport.’’
DfT publish successful bids at initial application stage 25 March 2015.
Economic and strategic appraisal and independent commercial viability stage 25 March – 29 May 2015.
DfT publish list of successful bidders 30 June 2015.
Funding can be provided to cover up to 50% of airport aeronautical charges.