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Isle of Skye flights ‘could attract more than 21,500 passengers’

Air services from the Isle of Skye could attract more than 21,500 passengers a year if they are reintroduced, a report has said.

A feasibility study investigating the potential of scheduled air services from the isle, also said that the Ashaig Airstrip would need “substantial upgrading to handle scheduled flights” and up to £15.3m of investment could be required.

The report will be presented to The Highland Council’s transport environment and community services committee on Thursday.

A key recommendation is the setting up of a steering group of interested partners, including the Scottish Government and Transport Scotland, to further examine the findings of the study.

The Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and HITRANS jointly commissioned RDC Aviation and ARUP to undertake the review.

The Isle of Skye has been without a scheduled air service since 1988 when a Loganair service to Glasgow ended.

Councillor Graham Phillips, chairman of the committee, said: “This project has attracted a lot of interest at a local level and was raised with the First Minister on his visit to Skye last year.

“The results of the study highlight that the introduction of a scheduled air service has the potential to provide significant economic benefits to the island and the wider Highland area.

“As well as creating new local jobs and opportunities visitors would have the opportunity to connect to a wide range of destinations making the Highlands a very accessible year-round holiday destination.

“Due to the amount of both capital and revenue investment needed, it is important we clearly understand what is involved in terms of the infrastructure and facilities required before decisions on investment can be made. Detailed investigations need to be carried out but there is no doubt this is a really exciting project.”

Ranald Robertson, director of HITRANS, said the findings “indicate real demand for a return of air services from Skye to the central belt” but there would need to be “investment in the facilities at Ashaig and support for the operating costs of the route” if it was to become reality.

Stuart MacPherson, from Highlands and Islands Enterprise, added: “The report highlights the interest in and benefits of a service and provides robust information on costs and sustainability which can be further built upon. HIE would be happy to participate in a formal working group, should this be established.”

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