Sumburgh runway extension opened
The new £9.75 million runway extension at Sumburgh Airport in Shetland was opened today as figures for the first 10 weeks of the Air Discount Scheme (ADS) in the islands is showing a take up rate of 92 per cent.
Across the Highlands and Islands there are now 82,094 members in the ADS scheme - 90 per cent of all eligible residents.
The scheme offers a 40 per cent reduction on air fares for people resident in rural areas, including students studying away from home, to link them with main centres of population.
The eligible areas are Western Isles, Orkney, Shetland, Islay and Jura, Caithness and North-West Sutherland.
At Sumburgh, Transport Minister Tavish Scott said:
"This is a great day for Shetland. For too long residents in Scotland's remoter communities did not share the same benefits from lower air travel that travellers in the rest of the country enjoyed
"When we launched the lower air fares scheme earlier this year, we sent out a strong signal that we wanted this to change. The take-up figures show people agree with us.
"With the opening of the new runway extension at Sumburgh airport we are opening up opportunities to develop new routes, improving access to and from Shetland. This devolved government is making a difference.
"Along with the figures released today and the opening of the new runway, this is a good day to be a Shetlander."
George Henderson, chairman of Sumburgh Airport Strategic Partnership, said:
"The partners share a goal of developing the airport as a business and tourism gateway for Shetland through scheduled air services and other traffic. The runway extension ensures that we have the infrastructure capable of facilitating these goals.
"Air travel plays a vital economic and social role in Shetland and we are delighted to have been able to support its development through this successful partnership project."
Sandy Matheson, chairman of HIAL said:
"The additional runway length will enhance the operation of existing scheduled aircraft types and open up opportunities to develop new air services at Sumburgh. Through effective partnership working we have delivered an infrastructure enhancement that will benefit the islands for years to come."
Sumburgh Airport has been used to provide 1,979 individuals on ADS departing or arriving, taking 6,442 individual flights to and from the centres of population. This represents 33.3% of all ADS flights taken in Scotland.
More than 800 Shetland residents have taken multiple flights, totalling 4,205, i.e. more than one return trip in these 10 weeks (indicating that affordable travel links with the commercial centres of Scotland are benefiting Shetland's business world).
The 09/27 runway extension project was developed by the Sumburgh Airport Strategic Partnership comprising Highland and Island Airports Ltd, Shetland Islands Council, Shetland Enterprise and the airport's consultative committee.
The aim was to increase the runway length to remove weight restrictions from existing scheduled aircraft types and open up opportunities to develop new scheduled services at Sumburgh. The improved operability of the runway would also offer potential to develop new oil industry traffic at Sumburgh.
The £9.75 million project has been funded by HIAL, the Executive, SIC, the European Regional Development Fund (Highlands and Island Special Transitional Programme 2000-2006) and Shetland Enterprise (which contributed to the cost of initial studies but not the capital costs).
The project has been completed on budget and ahead of schedule. The target date for the runway being operational was the end of October 2006.