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Transport / Local transport partnership calls on HIAL to halt remote air traffic control plans

HIAL says island impact assessment is currently underway

Sumburgh Airport. Photo: HIAL

PLANS to centralise air traffic control services at Sumburgh Airport to Inverness should be halted until the potential impacts have been addressed, according to the chairman of the local transport partnership ZetTrans.

Councillor Ryan Thomson said he wants to see Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd’s (HIAL) plans paused until the company meets with ZetTrans and Shetland Islands Council representatives.

In response, HIAL said an islands impact assessment is currently underway – with a draft report potentially being produced by the end of June.

Government-owned HIAL recently put out to tender an £8.5 million contract for providing air traffic control services for its Sumburgh, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall and Stornoway airports remotely from Inverness.

There are concerns over HIAL’s proposals from politicians, local authorities and unions in a number of areas such as the effect on local employment.

Scottish transport secretary Michael Matheson had previously stated in January that an islands impact assessment would be undertaken in the “coming months”.

Thomson said on Monday: “This is one of Shetland’s critical lifeline links, and we need to be sure that any changes to the current system are in the best interests of our communities. We have unique needs here in Shetland, and at the very least an island-specific impact assessment must be completed.

“I’m calling for HIAL to put these plans on hold until the company meets with representatives from ZetTrans and Shetland Islands Council on this issue.”

A HIAL spokesperson said that an island impact assessment is currently underway and is being undertaken by an independent consultant.

“This will include consultation with local authorities and community groups,” they said.

“It is anticipated that the process will be completed and a draft report produced by 29 June.

“While every endeavour will be made to maintain this timescale [for the IIA], we acknowledge that the current restrictions and physical (social) distancing requirements may require this timeline to be extended.

“Procuring remote tower technology is part of the next phase of our ATMS programme. This technology will help deliver sustainable aviation connectivity and deliver a flexible, resilient air traffic service that will be highly adaptable as we ensure our airports are fit for the future.

“The procurement process for such tenders is a lengthy process. We anticipate that the process to procure the remote tower technology solution will be completed by December 2020/January.”