Further Representations on ATC to Petitions Committee

CNES has made further representations to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee on HIAL’s proposals to centralize its Air Traffic Control operations.

The Comhairle highlights that HIAL’s proposal equates to centralisation of services without due regard to the likely socio-economic impacts on the communities served, the views received from staff, local authorities and other stakeholders.

The Comhairle also emphasizes the relevant Trade Union, Propect’s view that expenditure to date on the project is significantly over budget although there is a general lack of transparency about actual costs. What it does show, however, is that HIAL are pressing on with proposals, irrespective of the Islands Community Impact Assessment and stakeholder opinion.  

With specific regard to the downgrading of Benbecula Airport, the view from the professional community is that the number of airlines prepared to tender for the PSO air route between Benbecula and Stornoway would be limited if Benbecula was designated as an Air Flight Information Service.

In terms of any economic arguments advanced by HIAL, there is a Report by Copenhagen Economic (26 March 2019), which argues that remote towers do not save money when the airport is not competitive.  The key findings can be summarised as follows: “competition is needed to guarantee that cost savings from remote towers benefit the airports and not the providers of air traffic control;  competition can generate cost savings that remote towers cannot generate; remote towers are unlikely to achieve savings of the same magnitude as competition; the case for remote towers seems to be exaggerated because required investments in remote towers are underestimated while foregone investments in conventional towers are overestimated; and the risk and associated costs of cyber and physical attacks on centralised remote towers seems to be underestimated”.    

Cllr Uisdean Robertson, Chair of the Comhairle’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said: “The Comhairle and other stakeholders is firmly opposed to these proposals of centralizing Air Traffic Control and the downgrading of Benbecula Airport which we believe will have a detrimental impact on our Islands’ communities and economies.”

The Comhairle has sought legal advice from Counsel in recent weeks on the legitimacy in law of HIAL’s proposals.

The results of an updated survey of ATC staff is expected soon.