Wales

Cardiff Airport 'should be privatised', its ex-chairman says

  • 2 November 2015
  • From the section Wales
Media captionLord Rowe-Beddoe said the airport was in an unbelievable state when he arrived in 2013

Cardiff Airport should be privatised within the next five years, according to its outgoing chairman.

Lord Rowe-Beddoe was appointed by the Welsh government in March 2013 when it bought the airport for £52m.

He told BBC News ministers were "absolutely right to take a very tough decision" to buy the airport in order to "stop the rot".

But he said it was "realistic" to expect the airport to be privatised within the next five years.

The Welsh government said it would not respond to his comments.

The former Welsh Development Agency chairman would not be drawn on whether ministers paid too much for it.

Millions of pounds have since been invested in the facilities there.

Lord Rowe-Beddoe, who stood down on Saturday, said it had taken "hard graft" to turn the airport around, in attracting airlines and also persuading the public to return.

The airport sustains 1,700 jobs and is worth £100m to the economy.

About a million passengers use the airport every year, compared to about six million flying from Bristol.

Passenger numbers have been increasing - particularly in recent months after the airline Flybe opened a series of new routes.

The total number of passengers reached 150,477 in September 2015 an increase of 25,874 on the same month in 2014.

Lord Rowe-Beddoe said he saw no reason why this increase could not continue.

The Welsh Conservatives have pledged to put Cardiff Airport back into private hands by 2021.

Lord Rowe-Beddoe, a crossbencher in the House of Lords, said he understood why many business people were concerned about the airport being taken into public ownership.

But he compared it to the banks when the UK government had to step in as an emergency measure to prevent them going out of business.

Lord Rowe-Beddoe said transatlantic flights were realistic in the future and there had been discussions with American, Asian and Far Eastern airlines.

He said the airport's existing capacity had room to handle 2.5m passengers a year.

Just under 30% was business traffic, but he said that was an area the airport was building on.

But Martin Evans, a transport expert with the University of South Wales, said the airport was still on "life support."

He said it needed to grow in size and attract more passengers for businesses to invest in it.

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