Alderney Airport upgrade proposals to be put to the States20th November 2018
The States of Guernsey are to be asked to give the green light for a major upgrade to Alderney Airport, including essential repairs to the main runway.
The project, expected to cost more than £12 million, will address the deterioration in the condition of the runway, which was last resurfaced in 1999. Extensive patch repairs have since been carried out, but more significant reconstruction is now required to maintain regulatory compliance.
The recommended scheme, which is supported by the States of Alderney, is to reconstruct the main runway and other paved areas at the airport. These include the apron area, where aircraft park to load and unload passengers, and the taxiway that links it to the runway.
The runway will also be restored to its original width of 23 metres, and new lighting and drainage installed. These elements will provide significant operational improvements, and result in fewer flights to and from the island being cancelled or delayed.
Other options considered for the project included strengthening and extending the 877 metre runway, to accommodate larger aircraft. It was thought this may attract other airlines to provide more flights and potentially more routes. That would improve connectivity, bringing wider economic benefits such as population growth and increased tourism.
A detailed economic appraisal estimated the additional cost, including extra security requirements, at between £11.5 million and £19 million. It concluded the anticipated benefits did not justify the investment, as the size of the Alderney market does not warrant larger aircraft. Bigger planes were therefore more likely to result in reduced frequency and increased operating costs, leading to higher fares or extra subsidies.
Another option that was considered would see the current length retained but the runway strengthened in preparation for a future extension and larger aircraft. This is not being recommended, but the proposed development will allow an extension at a later date, should it become economically viable.
Installing a hard surface to one of Alderney's two current grass runways was also among the early options considered. The review concluded this was unnecessary, as they were mostly used by private aircraft, and only occasionally.
Aurigny's old Trislanders sometimes used the grass runways when wind conditions prevented landings on the main tarmac runway. However this is less of an issue with the current Dornier aircraft, which have better cross-wind performance.
Following the introduction of a new maintenance regime in 2016, operational issues that led to the closure of the grass runways for extended periods have now been addressed. These are therefore no longer included in the proposed capital investment.
The current condition of the main runway reflects the age of the surface. As it gets older, the bitumen that binds aggregate together to form a hard pavement becomes brittle, allowing stones to break lose. If left unaddressed, this loss can cause severe operational issues - potentially including potholes - and result in failure to meet compliance standards.
The apron area and taxiway are showing similar signs of aging. The deterioration has increased as a result of the recent harsh winters, in particular the loss of aggregate from the surface of the runway.
An asphalt stabilising compound was therefore applied to the runway in September 2018. That has arrested deterioration, but does not address the underlying strength. It would also need to be reapplied after three years, and was therefore only a short term fix.
The States are being asked to give approval for the STSB to spend up to £460,000 to progress the design of the recommended scheme, through to tendering for a specialist contractor to carry out the works and regulatory approval.
It is expected that a contractor would be appointed by the end of 2019, with construction beginning in 2020. The work would then be expected to be completed around spring 2021.
Under the post-war agreement between the islands, signed in 1948, Guernsey provides Alderney with various 'transferred' services. That includes the airfield, which is operated on a day to day basis by Guernsey Airport, and therefore falls under the mandate of the States' Trading Supervisory Board (STSB).
STSB President, Deputy Peter Ferbrache, said the refurbishment was an urgent priority.
"The States recently agreed a new air transport licensing policy, which acknowledged the Alderney/Guernsey air service is a lifeline for the island. However because of the age of the main runway and other paved areas, and their gradual deterioration over time, Alderney Airport is now in urgent need of refurbishment.
"This represents a much-needed and significant investment in the island's infrastructure, to help safeguard its essential air links.
"The programme has looked in detail at various options, to identify the most appropriate scope. That includes an extension to the runway which would open up the possibility of larger aircraft. However having been through a comprehensive evaluation, looking at both the technical aspects and potential economic benefits, the size of the market currently would not benefit from larger aircraft. However it remains an option for the future."
The full policy letter can be viewed here:
Picture: Alderney Airport.