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Transport / Start-up delays see HIAL fall well short of car parking income target

Over £100,000 has been generated since the introduction of the £3-a-day charge

The Sumburgh Airport car park. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland NewsThe Sumburgh Airport car park. Photo: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

DELAYS in introducing the car parking fee at Sumburgh Airport saw operator Highlands and Islands Airports (HIAL) fall some way short of its target income during the first 14 months of drivers being charged.

Freedom of information figures obtained by Shetland News shows that £100,812.43 was received in car parking income between December 2018, when the controversial £3-a-day fee kicked in, and 31 January this year.

This, however, was some way short of the £256,500 target income for the same period.

HIAL said the shortfall was mainly due to the delays which saw paid parking start later than planned.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said islanders have been “ripped off” and reiterated her call for the charge to be scrapped.

The payback period budgeted for the project at Sumburgh Airport, meanwhile, is estimated to be five years from December 2018.

Government-owned HIAL, which depends on subsidies to run its loss-making airports, has defended the introduction of the charge – which also came into place at Kirkwall and Stornoway – as a way to increase revenue.

HIAL came under fire for not consulting prior to announcing the charge, and also for imposing a parking fee at an airport which provides lifeline services.

Responding to the figures, Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said: “Islanders have been ripped off to the tune of more than £100,000 with this tax on island life.

“The charges should be scrapped. HIAL utterly failed to recognise the realities of living in Shetland when they imposed these charges without consultation or island impact assessment.”

A spokesperson for HIAL said that the company’s “immediate focus is to support the communities that we serve and ensure essential and emergency flights continue”.

“We will examine future requirements for car parking as part of our routine review of facilities at the airport,” they added.

Residents of Shetland’s islands are exempt from the charge, as are blue badge holders and people travelling on NHS journeys.

At the moment income from parking will be well below expectations as Sumburgh Airport has been restricted to essential services during the coronavirus crisis.