A plan to replace the passenger terminal at Inverness Airport with a new multimillion-pound building on a different site is being considered by its operator, it has emerged.
With an estimated price tag of up to £54.8 million, the move, from one side of the main runway to the other, would place the airport’s passenger facilities within walking distance of its planned railway station.
It is one of four options for expanding the terminal to meet forecast growth in customer numbers under consideration by Highlands and Islands Airports (Hial).
They were set out in a draft master plan for the airport’s development over the next 25 years, published by the Scottish Government-owned body.
It predicts the number of passengers using the terminal could more than double from the 2019, pre-Covid, annual total of 947,000 to up to 2.1million by 2045, and concludes the airport “must develop its infrastructure to cater for the anticipated growth”.
The other options detailed in the document focus on ways of expanding the current building, which was opened in 1999 and is a mile from where Network Rail is planning to open the railway station next year.
Hial described the proximity of a new terminal to the planned rail facility as “one of the main advantages” of such a development.
The idea was welcomed by Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Edward Mountain, who has previously voiced concerns about how passengers will get from trains to the airport.
Mr Mountain said: “A new airport terminal, built on the same side as the new Inverness railway station, has the potential to boost the Highland economy and make travelling to and from the region far easier. This is exactly the type of joined-up thinking we require to enhance Highland connectivity.
“We need to make travelling between the new station and airport as efficient as possible. The last thing Highlanders and tourists will want is a replica of the problems experienced at Dyce railway station (Aberdeen).
“Putting the airport terminal and railway station closer together is the obvious solution.”
Inverness Airport general manager Graeme Bell said the draft master plan, which has been published as part of a public consultation on the proposals, was developed using local feedback.
Mr Bell added: “Recent years have seen significant growth across our airport and whilst Covid-19 has certainly had a severe impact on the aviation industry, we expect it will recover in the short to medium term.
“We have conducted a traffic forecast exercise that indicates the airport will continue to thrive post-Covid, predominantly through further expansion of the UK market and a modest growth of international passengers.
“The draft plans show four options of facilitating our anticipated development, made up of three extensions to the existing terminal building and one option for a completely new terminal building constructed on the south side of the airfield.
“The concepts presented within the plan have been designed to provide intuitive passenger flows that will enable fast-track movement of business and frequent travellers, and walk-through retail space to enhance the commercial experience.”
The public consultation runs until the end of this month.