The process of buying new aircraft to provide lifeline air services to Barra has now begun — almost two years behind the Scottish Government’s original schedule.
Transport Minister Keith Brown announced last week that two new aircraft will be purchased by the Scottish Government and will operate on the routes to Barra, Campbeltown and Tiree as part of the Public Service Obligation scheme. The tender process will run until 22nd August 2014.
Mr Brown said: “We are committed to buying new aircraft for use on the Public Service Obligation routes, so I’m very pleased to see Highlands and Islands Airports Limited get the formal tendering process underway.
“Whilst the process is open to all aircraft manufacturers and suppliers, the specification is for twin engine aircraft. The unique operating environment at Barra will also factor into the aircraft types we can consider.
“The aim of the process is to select the tenderer which represents the best value for money and the criteria includes emphasis on quality as well as price. I want these planes to enter service as soon as possible, so delivery time will also be taken into account.
“These air services are crucial to Campbeltown, Tiree and Barra, connecting these communities and transporting goods and services. These local economies are based on service industries, tourism, fisheries and agriculture. The reliance on tourism in particular means that direct air links are vital to enable visitors to reach the islands easily.”
He added: “The current planes operating on the routes are owned by Loganair, so purchasing our own aircraft will encourage more competition when the contract for the PSO routes comes up for renewal. We will also be engaging with passengers, local businesses and other interests on the specifications for the next contract period so we can consider what enhancements can be made to these services, making best use of the new aircraft.
“It’s taken us longer than planned to get to this point as we needed to consider factors affecting the tendering process and wanted to look at all the options available to us.”
Last month the Scottish Government refused to say why their pledge to order new Twin Otter aircraft for use on the Barra-Glasgow route had been pushed back. In May 2012 Keith Brown said new aircraft would be ordered by October of that year and would be in place by April 1st 2013.