Cardiff airport nationalised

The Welsh government has taken the unprecedented step of buying Cardiff Airport amidst on-going concerns about its performance and ability to compete with nearby Bristol.

The Welsh government has taken the unprecedented step of buying Cardiff Airport amidst on-going concerns about its performance and ability to compete with nearby Bristol.

First minister, Carwyn Jones has previously been critical of the airport’s performance following a substantial slump in passenger numbers.

Figures published at the start of the year reported that just over a million passengers flew through the airport in 2012, a drop of 16.1 per cent, around 200,000 travellers. This compared with a peak of 2 million passengers in 2007.

At the time the BBC went on to note that “in contrast, it is estimated that 700,000 passengers from Wales were among the 5.7m flying from Bristol Airport – 24 miles (38km) from the Welsh border – in 2011.”

The result saw the Welsh government yesterday formally announcing that it had purchased the airport for £52 million. In outlining the move, Carwyn Jones was at pains to emphasise that it would be run at arm’s length from ministers and that the expectation is that it will lead to a return to the public purse.

He explained:

Cardiff Airport is a vital gateway to Wales for business, tourists and general travellers alike. It is essential that its future is secured and that we develop high quality sustainable services.

The Airport will not be operated by the Welsh government. It will be managed at arm’s length from government on a commercial basis and, over time, I expect to see a return to the public purse on the investment.

A chief executive of the airport will be announced in due course. In the meantime, I am delighted that Lord Rowe-Beddoe has agreed to serve as Chairman of the Airport Board.

Reaction to the announcement, the most high profile acquisition by the Welsh government, has been mixed, with Bristol Airport chief executive Robert Sinclair voicing concerns  that such state support for the airport could prove anti-competitive.

In other responses, the CBI in Wales called for “strong and effective commercial stewardship”; the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales argued that infrastructure around the airport, such as roads and rail, needed to be improved

Meanwhile the South Wales Chamber of Commerce “warmly welcomed” the sale.

The Welsh Conservatives went on the attack, however, dubbing the project a “socialist vanity project”. The party’s shadow transport minister Byron Davies said:

“This is a step towards some ideological outdated socialist dream where everything is controlled and run by the state.

“The role of government is to provide first class public services and create the conditions for economic growth, not to fritter away scarce public funds on buying airports.

“Instead of changing the ownership of the airport, we need improved marketing, investment in route development and major access enhancements to make it easier for tourists and business travellers to reach Cardiff Airport.

“Carwyn Jones needs to explain how new ownership of the airport will make any difference to the way it is managed and reassure the public that this is not some socialist vanity project at their expense.”

Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Lib Dems meanwhile called for further information on the government’s plans to take the airport forward, with Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood going on to conclude that there is “no reason why a publicly-owned national airport for Wales could not be far more successful than the airport in its present state”.

Noting the questions asked of the first minister at Welsh Labour’s recent conference, the BBC’s Political Editor for Wales, Betsan Powys has concluded on her blog:

“In Llandudno Carwyn Jones was asked about his wish to buy the airport. Why? It was totemic, he said. When people abroad ask him whether Wales has an international airport, their response – and presumably, in his view, desire to consider future investment – was coloured by the answer he gave.

“In future he will be able to answer with confidence – yes, it does. It’s just that now it’s up to him to make it fly.

“We’re all waiting for lift off.”

16 Responses to “Cardiff airport nationalised”

  1. LB

    Return t the public purse? He’s having a girrafe

  2. steph

    Cardiff airport can be the British Leyland of the skies!!

    “no reason why a publicly-owned national airport for Wales could not be far more successful than the airport in its present state”

    read some history

  3. krom

    Why not nationalisation, lets face it were all in the sh%t due to privatisation.

  4. steved

    we’re all in the sh#t because the government spent more money than it could ever raise in taxes. for decades – all over the western world. and borrowing to cover spending only lasts for so long.

    we need to stop spending money to pay for a fifth of working age people not to work. i don’t know if this is by time limited benefits, benefits with a contributory principle, guaranteed minimum wage government sponsored work for everyone that cant’t find a job on their own, helping the disabled into appropriate work rather than writing them off or what. but something has to give because the maths of overspending only works until someone won’t lend to you anymore.

  5. krom

    It’s was nothing to do with the relaxation of banking legislation that allowed banks to lend to those who could not afford to repay or corruption in the banking sector or the fact that the country’s assets were sold off cheaply lets face it we now have nothing but the tax payer to rely upon to pay for the country’s needs, and why is there a fifth of the working age population out of work when most employers decry the British work force in favour of the an immigrant workforce that they can treat with contempt due to there lack of knowledge of the employment rights. People such as yourself use the unemployed as a universal excuse to do away with the NHS and the welfare state its not perfect but its what makes Britain great.

  6. steved

    the NHS is a finely tuned killing machine. it executed 1% of the population of Stafford in 5 years! the rest of the world knows the NHS is crap and that’s why no-one has copied it.

    it’s only little englanders who can’t accept that the empire is gone who claim ‘its the envy of the world’.

    the welfare state pays for people to be idle. and as Gandhi said, paying healthy people to be idle is the greatest sin (paraphrased)

  7. Alex Swatton

    So London Midland rail franchise in private hands is a total advert for the failure of rail privatisation – yet it gets its contract extended. The East Coast main line (renationalised a few years back) has returned a great service and profit – placing £640m to the public purse – yet the coalition now wants to privatise it! The truth is the public sector CAN run services for profit – and have proven it, why can people not accept this. Rail privatisation has hardly been a great success overall now has it – come on people!

  8. Simon

    This is far from being “unprecedented.” The government has nationalised plenty of lemons over the last few years. And there are a number of airports in public ownership, Luton London Airport is owned by Luton Borough Council and Manchester and Stansted Airports are owned by a partnership of local authorities in the North West, all three of which are significantly bigger than Cardiff Airport.

  9. SadButMadLad

    I have no problem with part of the state buying a business and running itself. However there is always a risk in running a business. And who takes the can if the business fails? In the case of a private company, it’s the shareholders. In the case of a publicly run business, it’s the taxpayer.

    Are Welsh taxpayers willing to take the risk that millions could be wasted propping up the airport for the vanity of Carwyn Jones.

  10. JC

    As long as the Welsh taxpayer is paying for this and not the UK taxpayer, I see no problem. If the Welsh government wants to pay for something, why shouldn’t it? This is democracy in action.

  11. JC

    As long as the Welsh taxpayer is paying for this and not the UK taxpayer, I see no problem. If the Welsh government wants to pay for something, why shouldn’t it? This is democracy in action.

  12. JC

    As long as the Welsh taxpayer is paying for this and not the UK taxpayer, I see no problem. If the Welsh government wants to pay for something, why shouldn’t it? This is democracy in action.

  13. JC

    As long as the Welsh taxpayer is paying for this and not the UK taxpayer, I see no problem. If the Welsh government wants to pay for something, why shouldn’t it? This is democracy in action.

  14. JC

    As long as the Welsh taxpayer is paying for this and not the UK taxpayer, I see no problem. If the Welsh government wants to pay for something, why shouldn’t it? This is democracy in action.

  15. Phil

    The 10 local authorities of Greater Manchester.

    Successful in making Manchester Airport what it is today.

    In fact, so successful that, apart from Manchester, they now also have a two thirds majority shareholding in the group that owns East Midlands, Stansted and Bournemouth airports.

    So publically owned authorities can be successful. And faced with a failing, privately owned airport that is a blight on the economic expansion of South Wales, the Welsh Government has done exactly the right thing,

  16. Guest

    The Conservatives make me laugh, whinging about outdated, dogmatic ideology, yet their blank rejection of even considering public ownership, even if it’s the best option smacks of ideology.

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