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Significant service improvement promised for lifeline air routes

A plane lands at Barra Airport
A plane lands at Barra Airport

Improvements have been promised for west coast lifeline air services when new contracts are awarded later this year.

The next contract for public service obligation (PSO) air routes from Glasgow to Campbeltown, Tiree and Barra will require “significant service improvements”, it was announced yesterday.

Specifications for the new contracts will include increasing return trips to Tiree and Barra to two per day on Monday to Saturday and extending the Sunday service to operate all year round, and bringing forward the start date of Sunday services to Campbeltown from June to May.

The tendering process for the PSO service – which protects routes that are crucial for communities but not profitable for transport companies – will get underway on April 7.

The contract should be awarded toward the end of July, with the next contract period expected to start in October to coincide with the start of the winter timetable.

Transport and Islands Minister Derek Mackay said: “These air links are vital to the local economies of Campbeltown, Tiree and Barra and I want to make sure they are delivering the best service possible for the communities they serve.

“The flights transport people, goods and services, playing a crucial role for service industries and ensuring that residents have access to specialist healthcare. Direct air links also enable visitors to reach the islands easily, boosting local tourism.

“We have listened to representatives of these communities to find out what we could do better and have built improved specifications into the next contract to make sure the flights are supporting people, businesses and tourism.”

The Scottish Government has purchased two new Twin Otter aircraft for the routes.

Inglis Lyon, Highlands and Islands Airports managing director said: “The impending arrival of these new aircraft, and the promise of additional capacity on all three routes, is welcome news for the communities of Campbeltown, Tiree and Barra.

“Air travel provides an important social and economic lifeline for those communities and this investment in new aircraft will have a positive impact for local business and tourism.”

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