Comhairle nan Eilean Siar Logo (with tagline Ag Obair Còmhla Airson nan Eilean)
Lews Castle

Comhairle and MSP Call for Island Lifeline Connectivity Recognition

Comhairle and MSP Call for Island Lifeline Connectivity to be Recognised in Air Schedule to Inverness

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s Chair of Transportation Cllr Uisdean Robertson and Alasdair Allan MSP have together called for the lifeline connectivity needs of our islands to be reflected in air schedules on key routes to the Western Isles. 

Recent changes to timetables particularly the reduced schedule for summer 2024 on the Stornoway to Inverness route appear to follow a pattern of reduced schedules following the introduction of the larger ATR aircraft to replace the fleet of SAAB 340 aircraft.  While the market economics for Loganair in making savings to their operating costs is understood in the context of a commercially driven model it pays no regard to the lifeline nature of the Highlands and Islands Air network. 

While the Scottish Government have maintained a position that market failure needs to take place before a Public Service Obligation could be applied to any route consideration should be given to an intervention either by PSO or a partnership with Loganair to secure an acceptable level of connectivity for our islands. 

The minimum service level on routes to the islands should be a service that allows a meaningful day for business or leisure from the islands to the mainland destination and from the mainland to our islands. This should include the ability to travel over the weekend and take consideration of connections to inter-island services. 

Uisdean Robertson, Chair of Transportation, said: 

“Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have been concerned at the loss of our island air connectivity which was evident in the early introduction of winter timetables on the Benbecula route in 2023 and now with the reduced level of summer service for Stornoway.  This despite receiving reassurances from Loganair’s former Chief Executive that the introduction of larger aircraft would the airline to offer more lower cost seats on journeys to the islands.  Instead, our fear that service levels would suffer is being realised.  We need to see consideration of a network of air services secured by PSO or failing that a recognition that air services are a lifeline and should be operated in a way that meets the needs of our communities.”

Alasdair Allan MSP, said:

 “Despite much talk in recent weeks about prioritising islands, Loganair’s recent timetable changes are detrimentally affecting those needing to travel between Stornoway and Inverness (including onward connections at both ends). There is, understandably, a great deal of concern locally about the significant impact recent changes have had both on those needing to travel on this route to access or provide medical treatment, in particular, as well as for work. This route is a lifeline service for my constituents, and it seems those taking timetabling decisions are not taking into account just how far-reaching the negative consequences of these choices are for islanders.”)