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New bid to help London air links
A FRESH attempt to revive air links to London from regional airports such as struggling Durham Tees Valley will be made by a North-East MP.
Phil Wilson, the Labour MP for Sedgefield, will table an amendment to legislation currently before MPs to require airlines to maintain routes if investment and jobs depend on it.
The idea will also be put to Aviation Minister Theresa Villiers when a delegation, led by Mr Wilson, meets her on April 24, to discuss the Durham Tees Valley Airport problems.
Mr Wilson said: “This amendment is another way of protecting airports like Durham Tees Valley Airport.
“If the legislation proposed had been in place when BMI pulled its London flights from Durham Tees Valley Airport, the Civil Aviation Authority could have said ‘you have an obligation to continue to fly because of the impact on the Tees Valley’.
“I want the committee considering the Civil Aviation Bill to examine the possibility of the clause, which has the support of MPs in the Tees Valley area.”
It is the second proposal put forward to try to breathe life into the airport, hit by a £1.6m loss and passenger numbers dwindling to about 200,000 a year.
Last month, a deal was struck that meant the Peel Group took back control of the airport, ensuring it will remain a commercial business, but doubts remain over its long-term future.
James Wharton, the Tory MP for Stockton South, urged the new Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to apply for a public service obligation (PSO) agreement, to secure a lucrative Heathrow slot. There has been growing criticism that Heathrow has reserved slots for only six UK airports – down from 21 in 1995 and compared with 250 such arrangements across Europe.
However, Mr Wilson, while backing the idea of a PSO, said the cost – up to £2m a year – will be beyond the reach of the cashstrapped enterprise partnership.
Similar calls for more PSOs have been made for many years, without success.
Mr Wilson’s amendment would allow the Government to impose an obligation on an airline to operate a specified route “if a socioeconomic case can be built for the route to continue”.
It would be imposed as part of the licence conditions for operating another route, following consultations with the Civil Aviation Authority, airport and airline.