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Government to pay £12m for runway repairs

The repair of the east extension of the Sumburgh airport runway could cost as much as £12 million - Photo: ShetNews

THE SCOTTISH government is to provide up to £12 million to repair the runway at Sumburgh airport.

The work is likely to cost more than the original extension work, completed in 2006, and will start as early as this summer.

First minister Alex Salmond announced the funding as he arrived at the airport at the start of a two day visit to Shetland.

Shetland Islands Council (SIC) and Highlands and Islands Airport Limited (HIAL) have been in a long running legal battle about who is responsible and should pay for the damage winter storms have inflicted on the runway.

Salmond said he hoped the dispute between the airport operator and the council, which was managed the repair work, could be settled out of court with arbitration from the government.

“It is very important for the airport runway extension to be secured because, obviously, there have been problems with the original contract,” he said.

“Our information is that the extension itself is vulnerable to the next winter’s sea incursion.

“There is a dispute between HIAL and the council about responsibility, but I think the key is to get the runway extension secure.

“It is a big project – up to £12 million – but we have decided to cut the Gordian knot; the Scottish government is providing the funding so that the work can be started now and finished in good time for the winter.”

The news was welcomed by Allan Wishart, chairman of the Shetland transport partnership ZetTrans, who said he had not been forewarned.

“There was some talk of an announcement at Sumburgh and for a split second I imagined they might undertake to fund the repair work, and now it has happened I am delighted,” Wishart said.

He added that he hoped any legal action over the repairs would now fall.

HIAL’s managing director Inglis Lyon said they looked forward to starting work on the runway this summer ahead of the winter storms that have wreaked so much damage.

“We look forward to commencing the repair works this summer. Every effort will be made to ensure there is no disruption to the normal operation of the airport while these essential repairs are carried out,” he said.

“The runway at Sumburgh airport is an asset of regional and national importance because of the airport’s role as an energy gateway.

Sumburgh is also one of the fastest growing airports in Scotland as a result of the current boom in energy related traffic.

“These essential works will protect a vital infrastructure asset and enable the airport to continue to grow and attract new business to the region.”

Air traffic at Sumburgh has grown hugely in the past year since new restrictions were placed on helicopter movements following the recent ditching of a Super Puma chopper in the North Sea.