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Wales air study

Wales air study

The study examined options for the development of air travel in Wales. The best strategy from the viewpoint of commercial air travel fairly easily emerged as the development of Cardiff airport. This was the only airport near to a substantial catchment population, that could provide enough demand to justify a reasonable range of regional and international routes. Cardiff had the additional advantage of potentially being accessible by public transport from the main population centres. There was also land available nearby for the development of additional air-related industry and services.

There was a further issue, however, that could not be resolved taking a purely commercial approach. This was the notoriously difficult travel between north and south Wales, taking many hours by road or rail. In effect North Wales was finding it difficult to be adequately represented in the Cardiff-based Welsh Assembly Government. The answer was to identify an appropriate airfield in North Wales from which a subsidised air service could operate to Cardiff. This service was subsequently started up at RAF Valley on Anglesey and apparently has been popular, although it requires a hefty annual subsidy, and the airport is remote from many of the north Wales towns.

In 2020 the Welsh Government was questioning whether the north Wales service should be terminated at the end of the current contract (in 2023) in light not only of the subsidy (around £150 per passenger), but also concerns about the climate emergency and carbon emissions generated by the service. In addition, there were expectations of an improved rail service between Holyhead and Cardiff, that would better serve the main population centres of north Wales.

During the course of the study, well over 100 airports and airfields were identified in Wales!

Client(s)Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR)
Team(s)Tim Pharoah (project manager) with with Llewelyn Davies and others


Airport planning, airport strategy, air services, air services strategy, regional air services, Wales