Wales

Cardiff Airport passenger numbers fall below 1m mark

Cardiff Airport
Image caption Welsh government bought Cardiff Airport for £52m last month

Passenger numbers at Cardiff Airport have fallen below the one million mark for the first time in recent years.

The latest provisional figures from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) show 994,885 people flew from the airport in the year to March, which is down 15%.

The figures were released on the day that ministers insisted they had the right team in place to turnaround the airport.

It comes a few weeks after the Welsh government bought the airport for £52m.

There was a fall in passengers at Cardiff to just over 1m in 2012 from a peak of 2m in 2007.

Meanwhile, nearby competitor Bristol Airport saw almost 6m passengers in the last 12 months, including a large number from Wales.

Business Minister Edwina Hart made a statement in the Senedd on Tuesday about how the Welsh government's purchase was progressing.

She released three reports into the airport but said some material had been withheld because of "considerable commercial sensitivity".

Opponents have called on the Welsh government to publish its business case behind the acquisition.

The £52m price was "within the range of values that were acceptable to us and supported by the value for money advice we received", she said.

Mrs Hart said the Welsh government had "move swiftly" to appoint Lord Rowe-Beddoe as the airport's chairman and Jon Horne as chief executive.

'Confidence'

"We believe that this combination of chairman and chief executive, with the guidance of an experienced board, will enable the turnaround in Wales' national airport that we all seek and in doing so create a lasting economic impact," she said.

"Whilst we do not rule out future changes to the operational model, we are satisfied that we have the right structure in place for now to enable the airport to move forward with confidence."

Welsh Liberal Democrat business spokeswoman Eluned Parrott had hoped Mrs Hart would bring forward plans for an express bus service from central Cardiff to the airport.

"This bus link is vital," she said.

"A direct high quality bus service from Swansea to Bristol Airport via Cardiff will shortly be launched without any taxpayer assistance.

"The Welsh government really does need to start their service, which was first announced almost four years ago, as soon as possible."

Plaid Cymru's economy spokesman Alun Ffred Jones AM said with the issue of ownership now secured, the focus needed to be on the future of the airport.

"That's why we are calling on the Welsh government to draw up a Welsh aviation policy, detailing where we want passenger growth to come from and which destinations we can realistically secure," he said.

"Our main message is that the airport's fortunes can now be turned around, so that it boosts the economy in the south and projects a positive image for the whole of the country."

Conservative transport spokesman Byron Davies AM said so far Cardiff Airport appeared to be nothing more than an expensive new toy for the Welsh government.

"Everyone in Wales now owns a tiny part of the airport and it's only right that we are all told how the government plans to improve it - yet absolutely nothing is forthcoming," he added.

"Regardless of who is chairman of the board - or which company is running it - the minister should have detailed plans that she can bring forward."

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