The case for Alderney Airport regeneration
A series of information sheets has been published online by the States of Alderney to answer questions about the importance of the Alderney Airport Rehabilitation Project. All are published below and you can download these individually from this page:
The States of Alderney believes the majority of Islanders would like to see a modern, up-to- date and fully functioning airport fit for the 21st century with larger aircraft providing more seats for visitors and Islanders alike as a significant benefit for Alderney’s economy.
However, residents and others will have many questions, some of which the States has endeavoured to answer in these information sheets. It is expected there will be further questions to be answered as the States of Deliberation debate nears.
Together with an introduction page, the six information sheets cover the following:
- The background to the Option C+ proposal
- Why it’s important that Alderney adapts to changes in air transport
- What’s wrong with an airport that has served us so well for more than 50 years?
- What the proposal would mean to the Island and the Bailiwick
- Why the direct Alderney-Southampton link is vital to Alderney
- What could happen if an extended runway was NOT approved
Fact Sheet 1: The background to the Option C+ proposal
The rehabilitation of Alderney’s end-of-life runway has been actively worked on for more than eight years. It has taken many hundreds of staﬀ hours of work both in Alderney and in Guernsey to progress the options to the current position of an extended runway with a recommendation that the terminal building and ﬁre station, both more than 50 years old, should also be refurbished.
In 2019, the States of Guernsey agreed to spend £12.2m resurfacing and widening the runway.
Since then, it has become clear that not only does the runway need resurfacing as its condition is perilously close to failure, it should also be strengthened and extended to accommodate the changing world of 21st century aviation.
In addition, surveys have shown that the dilapidated Airport terminal and the ﬁre station are in desperate need of replacement. Both run the risk of failing to meet modern airport standards for safety and security and the current terminal building does not meet modern standards for disabled access and facilities.
Since 2019, a strong case has been put forward that if Alderney’s economy is to thrive, total rehabilitation of the Airport is essential. For example, it is likely that Alderney would lose its direct Southampton route in 2025 if the runway was not extended. A 2020 report by Clarity Economic Consulting found that this would cost Alderney – and therefore Guernsey as the tax authority – between £1m and £3m in direct and indirect revenue in Year One, with a well- researched central estimate of £1.8m (2020 ﬁgures).
In 2021, a series of options was considered and then presented at a public event in early 2022 with the pros and cons of each, from resurfacing and widening through to complete rehabilitation. The majority of Islanders at the event and the Chamber of Commerce supported the latter, known as Option C+.
Now the Guernsey’s States Trading Supervisory Board and Policy & Resources Committee have put forward a proposal to the States of Deliberation in Guernsey that Option C+ will provide a strong economic case not only for Alderney’s future but also for the Bailiwick as a whole.
The Outline Business Case estimates the cost to be in the region of £24m. This business case for Option C+ has been made purely on the savings from reduced annual PSO subsidies [see Information Sheets 2 & 4]. The rest of the beneﬁts for both Guernsey and Alderney merely strengthen an already sound business case for Option C+.
Factsheet 2: Why it’s important that Alderney adapts to changes in air transport
There are several important reasons why the opportunity for full airport rehabilitation should be grasped at this moment, not just for Alderney but for the Bailiwick as a whole. It is the most important Alderney infrastructure project to be considered since the Breakwater in the 19th Century, and the eventual outcome will have a material eﬀect on how Alderney develops in the decades ahead in terms of its level and rate of economic recovery.
It has been estimated that Option C+ and the subsequent use by larger aircraft would lead to an
additional 20,000 passenger seats per annum in and out of Alderney, and the opportunity to attract larger private aircraft. There is no other scenario that enables such traﬃc growth at relatively modest increases in operating costs. This would be a signiﬁcant economic enabler for Alderney’s fragile economy and enhance growth in ﬁscal revenues for the Bailiwick through business expansion.
Meeting 21st Century regulations
Air services to Alderney currently operate under several derogations and variations, which are
determined outside the Islands by regulators, and over which we have very little or no control. If these are withdrawn or changed, which could occur at any time, Alderney would be left without satisfactory air services. Option C+ would make such derogations obsolete at Alderney Airport. The increased runway length and width, together with improved security systems, will thus future-proof Alderney’s air services.
In the unlikely event that Aurigny could not, for whatever reason, provide air services, a longer runway
would enable stronger competition for any future Public Service Obligation contract that may be required. Limited dimensions of the existing airport were the reasons given by established airlines in not tendering for the current PSO, eﬀectively restricting the choice of aircraft to very limited design- types. The Outline Business Case indicates an annual recurring saving of around £800,000 on the PSO subsidy which is a critically important part of making Alderney’s lifeline air routes sustainable in the long term. It is very unlikely that any future PSO subsidies would be agreed at the current levels of £2m per annum, hence the importance of signiﬁcantly reducing the annual subsidy through the adoption of Option C+.
The increased runway length would permit aircraft such as the Kingair to operate into Alderney Airport,
and therefore enable the Island to be included in the Committee for Health and Social Care Committee’s overall Medevac Contract for Guernsey. Hitherto, this has not been possible because of Alderney’s restricted runway length. In addition to upgrading the island’s medical service from an air taxi to an air ambulance, the provision of a medevac service will also reduce the costly disruptions to Aurigny and its scheduled passengers.
Factsheet 3: What’s wrong with an airport that has served us so well for more than 50 years?
The option now being considered of a rehabilitated, extended and widened runway suitable for larger aircraft would not only future-proof Alderney, but it would also enable the Island’s tourist industry and population to grow with increased employment opportunities and signiﬁcant positive impacts on Alderney’s economy. This would contribute further revenues to the Bailiwick Exchequer.
Our UK air links are already tenuous
None of this would be possible with an ageing airport and restrictions on the type of aircraft that can land on Alderney. Without an extended runway, Alderney would doubtless eventually bid farewell to its prized Alderney-Southampton route and numerous tourism and business opportunities would be lost.
The existing airport does little to attract economic growth
In addition to the additional 20,000 seat capacity brought by larger scheduled aircraft, a longer runway would enable small/medium business and other private aircraft to operate in and out of the Island, thus making Alderney more attractive to businesses and high net-worth individuals whose activities and direct and indirect taxes would make a signiﬁcant beneﬁcial impact on Alderney’s – and the Bailiwick’s – economy. In relatively small overall economies like Alderney’s, the importance of a small number of additional high net worth individuals on island should not be underestimated.
Where’s the appeal to investors?
The replacement of Alderney’s very tired and increasingly expensive to maintain Passenger Terminal Building with a more ﬁt-for-purpose building will improve the image and attractiveness of the Island with positive impacts on our economy, as well as being compliant with modern disability and health and safety legislation.
It has become so hard to get the things we need
Larger aircraft would also create the opportunity for greater levels of air freight to be transported which is part of the equation that could be advantageous to both airline operators and Alderney.
This project would boost the Island’s attractiveness for residency, economic activity and inward investment. Staying as we are, albeit with a resurfaced runway, would not. It would also leave Alderney dangerously exposed to the externally controlled derogations that currently allow Alderney Airport to operate at all.
Factsheet 4: What the proposal would mean to the Island and the Bailiwick
The detailed Outline Business Case (OBC) for the airport rehabilitation shows that Option C+ represents the best value for money in the mid- to long-term. This conclusion is reached even though the estimated £24m capital costs of this option are signiﬁcantly higher than the amount of £12.2 million voted for the Alderney runway rehabilitation in January 2019.
A much-needed conﬁdence boost
The long-term stability this project provides for Alderney’s air services will give much-needed conﬁdence to existing and future residents of the island, boosting the Island’s attractiveness for residency, economic activity and inward investment.
It negates operator risk
The proposal avoids the risk that if a private commercial operator without a proven track record took on one or both PSO routes but then ceased operating for whatever reason, it may be considered doubtful that the States of Guernsey would be able to step back in to support Alderney’s air links at their current levels. Alderney’s air links are too vital to the community to take signiﬁcant risks of such service failures.
It would reduce the PSO subsidy
Aurigny, the current Public Service Obligation operator, calculates a signiﬁcant reduction on the annual PSO subsidy costs if the airline can operate its ATR 72-600 ﬂeet into Alderney. The OBC considers this reduction to be in the region of £800,000 a year from 2025. Such a saving in the long run could be the diﬀerence between Alderney gaining or losing long-term secure sustainable air links both northwards to the UK and southwards to Guernsey.
More visitors, more business
The availability of a large number of “bonus” seats, thought to be in the region of 20,000 extra passengers a year, would be a signiﬁcant economic enabler for Alderney’s fragile economy and enhance growth in ﬁscal revenues for the Bailiwick through further business expansion.
In addition to increased tourism from the UK, including the ﬂexibility to ramp up seat capacity in peak periods such as Alderney Week, it would enhance ‘island hopping’ and provide resilient services for multicentre holidays from the UK with start points in either Guernsey or Alderney. It would also enable the Island’s tourist industry and population to grow, with increased employment opportunities and signiﬁcant positive impacts on Alderney’s economy, which would help to contribute further revenues to the Bailiwick Exchequer.
Factsheet 5: Why the direct Alderney-Southampton link is vital to Alderney
We all know the value of the direct Alderney-Southampton link. This has a huge impact on our tourism and businesses, together with the importance of simply keeping in touch with family and friends in the UK. The route is extremely well used, with very high booking levels. Without full rehabilitation of the airport, there is a distinct risk that this route would be lost to Alderney when the current PSO expires in December 2025.
The impact of losing ACI-SOU
2020 research by Clarity Economic Consulting (CEC) conﬁrmed Alderney’s own fact-ﬁnding that withdrawing the Southampton route would cost Alderney – and therefore Guernsey as the tax authority – between £1m and £3m in direct and indirect revenue in Year One, with a well- researched central estimate of £1.8m. Alderney’s economy would plummet and place an ever- greater social burden and cost on Guernsey’s shoulders.
The economic eﬀect
CEC warned the Policy & Finance Committee in 2020 that welfare, health, education and infrastructure costs would spiral while direct and indirect tax revenue would be considerably reduced. In addition, key developments would be lost as an economic driver and revenue source to both islands. Even the then decision to reduce the number of Southampton ﬂights put projects such as the Fort Tourgis development on the shelf, although interest could be rekindled with the prospect of airport refurbishment.
Can they not travel via Guernsey?
Of course, they would have to. But in far fewer numbers. There is no doubt that withdrawing the Southampton service would lead to a damaging contraction of Alderney’s economy and a return to previous economic problems such as those experienced in the Noughties, including depopulation.
Alderney is proud of the enormous eﬀorts made to ignite and expand our economy, not least as a beautiful place to live and work, and an attractive destination for thousands of visitors. All of this would be put in jeopardy at a stroke if the direct UK route, with its excellent fast direct communication networks to/from London (just one hour), the south-east and beyond, was lost.
Factsheet 6: What could happen if an extended runway was NOT approved?
The States of Alderney believes that this would be a most unfortunate piece of short-term thinking in that there is little prospect that the current PSO with its £2m per annum subsidy (paid from the States of Guernsey budget) will remain aﬀordable when the existing one expires in December 2025.
Farewell Dorniers, hello Uncertainty
This would mean the removal of the Dorniers from the route and almost certainly the withdrawal of Aurigny (which is a government-backed airline) from both our lifeline routes. If Guernsey is prepared to continue to subsidise Alderney’s air links beyond the end of 2025 at a lower annual level of subsidy, then it is likely that services at best would return to eight/nine seat Islander types of small aircraft operating between Alderney and Guernsey.
It is unlikely there would be any scheduled service direct to the mainland, and certainly not to a major airport with wonderful connecting infrastructure like Southampton.
While some may hark back to the ‘good old days’, this is no way to future-proof Alderney Airport – its dilapidated terminal becoming ever older with no assurance of airport rehabilitation – and we would remain an economic backwater while the other Channel Islands prosper without us. Looking backwards is a dangerous way to approach the future in our fast-changing world.
It would be very unlikely that the States of Guernsey would contribute any subsidy to an Alderney- Jersey route as this would eﬀectively undermine demand on the Alderney-Guernsey route, thus wasting any subsidy required in the PSO. So any such route would have to stand on its own two feet, meaning that passengers would have to pay full fares based on actual costs (not subsidised costs as with the Guernsey route).
A better future?
It is for this reason that the authorities in Guernsey, with the States of Alderney’s support, have been looking at the extended runway as the most eﬀective and sustainable means to continue to support both direct northbound and southbound air links beyond the end of 2025.
The logic is that any increased capital costs of the longer runway and airport rehabilitation can be recovered by reducing the annual subsidy required for the PSO services very signiﬁcantly. The Outline Business Case for the longer runway Option C+ provides the best value for money over a 15-year period in that the subsidy could be reduced signiﬁcantly by around £800,000 a year by operating larger aircraft which require a longer runway.
Where will we be in 2042?
This Option C+ project of full rehabilitation is the best way to safeguard the Island’s lifeline air links for the next 20 years or so.
You can download all factsheets individually here: