A new £1million car park is being built at Inverness Airport to ease long-standing congestion problems.
The lack of adequate parking spaces at the Dalcross Airport near Ardersier, on the outskirts of the Highland capital, has long been a contentious issue for travellers.
Just prior to the Covid outbreak, which has hit air travel globally, Highland and Islands Airports Ltd (Hial) reported record passenger numbers across its 11 sites, including Inverness.
A successive rise in passengers, and the pressure this had on parking at Dalcross Airport before the pandemic, has prompted Hial to expand its capacity by 220 spaces, to just more than 1,500.
The new car park is located at the south of the terminal building adjacent to the Courtyard by Marriot Hotel, which was opened in 2019.
Inverness Airport general manager Graeme Bell, said: “Works started in January working with MGL Contractors and we are planning for completion in April this year.
“The development will add 220 additional car parking spaces to the airport which currently has 1,284 spaces for general parking and car hire use.
“Prior to the impact of Covid-19, the airport was in a period of significant growth and as a result car parking was constrained at times. This development will allow the airport to be equipped and ready when we are able to welcome back passengers.”
Councillor Gordon Adam, chairman of the authority’s tourism committee, said: “This is a welcome development, despite the severe difficulties faced by the airline industry at present.
“It shows confidence by Hial in the travel business bouncing back as the threat of Covid recedes, and the enduring attraction of the Highlands as a tourist destination.”
The development was also welcomed by councillor Trish Robertson, whose Culloden and Ardersier ward includes the airport.
Mrs Robertson, also chairwoman of the authority’s economy and infrastructure committee, said: “The car park at the airport has been very restricted over the years.”
She hoped it would bring to an end of cars parking on the edges of the road to the airport, and the nearest roundabout.
She added: “Any construction going ahead will bring jobs to people during Covid and will be good for the economy.”
The new car park is the latest construction project at the airport, with the Courtyard by Marriot Hotel completed just over a year ago.
Meanwhile, long-awaited plans for a new railway station at Inverness Airport were lodged with the council last year in a “milestone” moment for the multi-million-pound venture.
Network Rail has submitted fresh plans for a double-platform station at Inverness Airport to provide better connectivity to the city.
Transport chiefs say the new facility will result in a reduction in road travel to the airport, promoting greener travel choices whilst increasing capacity on the Inverness to Aberdeen line.
It is hoped that a train service bringing people directly to and from the airport will encourage more locals to jet off in the future – and promote Inverness as a place to holiday.
The rail station proposals include a 64-space car park with associated infrastructure including a footbridge and 16-person lifts on each platform.