Julian Bray writes:
|Virgin started some 30 years ago this year, Richard Branson might be attracted to the new Prestwick Airport?|
Always a pleasure to be invited to take part in BBC Scotlands radio morning telephone call-in programme, hosted by Louise White (19th June 9am and still on the iplayer).
The topic under the spotlight, was the proposal by the Scottish Government to invest £30 million into upgrading passenger terminal facilities at Glasgow Prestwick Airport.
It was my radio role to kick start the discussion as a Aviation Expert, but perhaps more importantly Glaswegian by birth, moved to London at 2 years old, lost my accent, but returned and spent my teens in Ayr, Doonfoot and Glasgow. ...
My Dad having moved back up to Scotland as a director on the railway property board to seemingly sell off Dr Beechings surplus railway tracks, stations, coal yards and any other property, for example a scout troop from England struck gold, and picked up a whole disused station 'Balquhidder station then called Lochearnhead on Loch Earn.
The scouts also gained lots of connecting storage tunnels, to store canoes, boats etc., - the railways at one time owned most of the High Streets, where there is, or was a railway connection - Essentially Dr Beeching axed any branch and connecting railways going left to right and right to left, they were disposed off and for silly money, leaving just a couple of main lines up and down the whole of the UK. Madness!
Don't worry, I've often told him it was a big mistake, also my Dads later decision to knock down the Euston ARCH and cart the stones away and all over a 3 day bank holiday before a preservation order could be slapped on it by Camden Council (by the way... most of the rocks are still in a huge back garden, as part of a waterfall feature, near Rickmansworth, Herts!) Families!
But I digress. The £30 million investment topic started to generate a number of calls, and within 20 minutes almost swamped the BBC switchboard, any English sounding voice (as mine is) among the well moderated Scots callers, with a range of pleasing to the ear Scottish dialects, clearly acts like a rasping magnet.
Just as when the family moved up to Scotland and the then rector (headmaster) at Ayr Academy Jimmy Cairns took one look at the potential badly educated scruffy school boy from London and demanded that a stack (23 in number) of books containing poetry by local poet and excise man Robert Burns be committed to memory over the short summer holiday, and that all the 32 (?) verses of Tam O'Shanter to be recited aloud on return, to Ayr Academy and an introduction to Mr Jimmy Walkers so called 'English' class... it was clearly the very first 'stand up comedy turn' not a dry eye in the class.... had the 'tawse' not appeared and been silently placed on Mr Walkers lift up desklid top.
Your writer blissfully unaware of this fearsome urge by Scottish teachers to belt the living daylights out of their charges - still that was the discipline problem sorted in the 1960s'...
The BBC calls came in fast and furious, the back story is that Prestwick or Glasgow Prestwick as it's currently known, or the fog/ flood free airport, was picked up for a pound by the Scottish Government when the New Zealand property company owners threw in the towel, having made year on year losses, the latest being £800,000, still no worries, the departing company can make use of the mantra 'tax losses forward' so everyone wins! The airport peaked in 2007 with 2.7 million passengers but lately drifting down to 1.1 million under the Kiwis' ownership.
My take on the issue is that £30 million invested in an upgraded Passenger handling terminal would be a really good idea, lierally open up the entire west coast of Scotland and over the borders, it would take the strain off the all too busy hemmed in Glasgow Airport, and then build its own cluster or hub of International scheduled airlines, in addition to the budget airlines. Prestwick already has a cargo and aircraft manufacturing function (airbus sections) which could also be expanded. A freeport, would obviously light the blue touch paper but perhaps that is a hope to far?...
Prestwick Airport after all unlike the other regional airports in Scotland, has its own railway station! Flight corridors are not a problem as the sea is nearby which combined with the newer generation of low noise aircraft wouldn tick all the cenvitronmrental box considerations. The airport is also of course on the national aviation fuel pipeline network, and in any national /international emergency has a strong strategic role ( which alone is a tick box for additional funding )
It would also service the growing populations all along the west coast, and provide manufacturing industries currently re rediscovering Scotland as viable base, with an intelligent workforce and far from the squabbles taking place in Westminster over the independence vote.
It is also clear now that the Chinese are piling in to build the HS2 high speed railway on the west side of the country. [Big mistake in view - entire route is prone to flooding] my Essentially families are on the move, to areas where there is word and houses/ apartments they can still afford.
For leisure and recreation, it is all on tap, and a short CALMAC ferry to Brodick, Isle of Arran. So to my mind £30 million is just the start, seed money if you like, more investment would follow. But then the Edinburgh mob hit the airwaves in the shape of Len Murray and Terry Murden the latter a business editor ( err from Edinburgh) who called Prestwick investment a white elephant.
Clearly had I butted in to remind him that Edinburgh Trams - a mere 8.7 mile link to Edinburgh airport, the final bill expecting to top £1 billion and then the adventures of Edinburgh based bankers, a sum north of £120 billion I seem to remember? But however hard the Edinburgh financial/ business mafia blusters.
It [Edinburgh] cannot compete with the geographic,climatic and strategic positioning of Prestwick, hopefully now dropping the Glasgow prefix. But might even end up as Trump Prestwick Airport , when Donald locates his troosers (Hat tip to the late Andy Stewart) and pulls out a few million more, to back up his golf and leisure resort aspirations ...
Wikipedia says: Edinburgh Trams a tramway in Edinburgh, Scotland, operated by Transport for Edinburgh. It is a 14-kilometre (8.7 mi) line between York Place in New Town and Edinburgh Airport, with 15 stops. Construction began June 2008, but the opening was delayed. The scheme was costed at £375 million in 2003, by May 2008, when contracts were signed, the cost ballooned to £521 million. After extra interest payments are factored in, the final cost is expected to top £1 billion. The line opened on 31 May 2014.
JULIAN BRAY, Media, Aviation, & Travel/Cruise Industry Expert. Broadcaster & Journalist, Regional Politics, EQUITY, NUJ Life Mbr. UK Tel: 01733 345581 (isdn remote location kit available)