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Grounded

Betsan Powys | 10:39 UK time, Thursday, 25 March 2010

_42596191_highlandairways203.jpgIeuan Air has landed ... for the last time.

That turbulence that had been threatening the service for some time has finally engulfed it.

Highland Airways, who operate the flight between Cardiff and Anglesey, have gone into administration, putting a hundred jobs at substantial risk and grounding the North South airlink in Wales.

What's flying about now? Accusations that too much of our money has been spent on keeping "a dead duck service" operating, as the Liberal Democrats put it.

Granted, the problems that have hit Highland Airways aren't linked to this particular flight. I don't know on what grounds exactly the Assembly Government claim it to be "a huge success" but there's no question that it's been more popular as far as passenger numbers go than many had expected.

All the same does that make it a "vital service" at a time when money is eye-wateringly tight?

The Assembly Government would like to get it off the ground again as soon as possible and Monday, will be looking for another company to take it over in the short term. Will anyone take it on for not a penny more money in subsidy than Highland Airways were getting? If not, the service is grounded for good, a cut some may rue more than others.

And on that point ... an obvious 'someone' that might spring to mind is Ieuan Wyn Jones, the AM for Anglesey and Deputy First Minister who has spent quite a bit of time on board and money on tickets and whose name has become synonymous with the flight.

Fair to point out then that the service was born under a Labour administration, a matter of weeks before Plaid came into government.

So which party will now step forward to argue more money should be spent resuscitating it?

UPDATE

Overheard at an Open University event in the Wales Millennium Centre last night? The Presiding Officer telling his audience that he would make no apologies to the Welsh Liberal Democrats for using the airlink to fly home tomorrow.

No apologies needed after all, Lord Elis-Thomas.

Map of the A470 anyone?

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