Wales pushes for long-term commitment to short-term capital connection

A regional UK newspaper says a six week series of ‘rescue’ flights by regional carrier Flybe between Cardiff and London City during the current closure of the Severn Tunnel could save the Welsh economy over 800 working weeks. It is working with local stakeholders to push for the short-term schedule to be turned into a full-time scheduled link between the two UK capital cities.

Flybe inaugurated its short-term series of flights on September 12, 2016 and will continue to serve the Cardiff – London City market with three flights on weekdays and two a day on weekends through to October 21, 2016 when the Severn Tunnel is due to re-open.

"I hope we will see an expanding range of regional air services from London to Cardiff in the longer term. We need to make it as easy as possible for commuters to get here," said Alun Cairns, Secretary of State for Wales, who was joined by a high profile delegation of business people on the inaugural flight.

Flybe has shown its regional model and the use of efficient 78-seat Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprops can provide sustainable air services in many UK domestic markets. It stepped in quickly earlier in the year to announce it would do everything possible to fill the temporary travel void so that critical links between the two capital cities could be maintained during the restricted travel opportunities over the six week Severn Tunnel closure for preparatory electrification rail works.

However, it has made no long-term commitment to this market and will likely use the six weeks of flights to trial the market and understand the demand for regular air connectivity once the direct rail connection is returned at the completion of the essential development works.

“We pride ourselves at Flybe on providing unrivalled regional connectivity. When the significance of the Severn Tunnel closure became apparent, with the result that for this period there would be no critical rail link between Cardiff and London, we committed to ensuring that Welsh travellers had another viable option,” explained Saad Hammad, chief executive officer, Flybe.

“Flybe champions regional air travel and we hope these rescue flights will help alleviate the travel woes of the thousands of passengers displaced by the loss of the region’s direct rail services,” he added.

Cardiff is growing in significance as a centre for financial services and the need for fast transport connections for business travellers is only going to increase, especially into Canary Wharf and the heart of the City of London, which is well-connected via London City Airport.

“We fully understand that efficient connectivity to and from London is key for business professionals across Wales, and that time really does equal money,” said Debra Barber, managing director and chief operating officer, Cardiff Airport.

“We hope to see this new route fully embraced by our customers so that it becomes a permanent part of Flybe’s ever-growing network of routes from Cardiff in the future,” she added.

Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen has travelled across the globe to report on developments in the aviation sector as airlines and airports have continued to evolve and…