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Transport / Warning made against increasing fares to cover cost of aviation’s transition to net zero

Transport partnership ZetTrans said any fare increases resulting from the transition would ‘exacerbate already existing inequalities’

Sumburgh Airport. Photo: HIAL
Sumburgh Airport. Photo: HIAL

THE COST of the aviation industry transitioning to net zero should not be passed onto passengers, Shetland’s transport partnership has warned.

ZetTrans said the cost of travel to and from Shetland is “already the highest in Scotland”.

“Any increases [to support the costs of the transition] would exacerbate already existing inequalities,” the partnership said.

ZetTrans was responding to a consultation on the Scottish Government’s planned aviation strategy.

One question was around what the government and industry can do to accelerate the transmission to low/zero emission aviation.

ZetTrans said it and Shetland Islands Council have informally been involved in the Kirkwall-based Sustainable Aviation Test Environment (SATE) project, and aims to become a formal, non-funding partner this financial year.

As the council owns Tingwall Airport, and the Fair Isle and Foula airstrips – as well as two planes – “ZetTrans and Shetland Islands Council can contribute to development and testing opportunities in a real world context with appropriate support”, the consultation response said.

It added that it is “important that progress to net zero is a quick as is practicable to avoid risks of increased peripherality that may arise if market solutions don’t move at the necessary pace”.

“In terms of what Scottish Government can do to accelerate the transition, the continuing support in meeting the costs of air travel will ensure healthy demand for travel to/ from the islands which will support commercial viability of services,” the consultation response said.

“This in turn should support operators in stimulating demand for net zero aircraft solutions and the pace at which they are developed.”

ZetTrans did note that there is an awareness that it is a complex process to decarbonise the types of small aircraft which fly the inter-island routes in Shetland.

In this respect there is an intention to be a “follower rather than a pioneer”.

ZetTrans also stressed the importance of supporting the “development of airport infrastructure necessary to transition to net zero technologies”.

The consultation also touched in international connectivity.

The ZetTrans response said this is important to Shetland as the isles enter into new opportunities in energy transition and the space industry.

“Major international companies such as Lockheed Martin and ABL Space Systems have already invested in the space centre development and, when operational, more companies will be attracted to Shetland to take advantage of this ground breaking development,” it said.

“It will also significantly impact positively on attracting both UK and international tourists.”

However, there is also a warning that more remote working could cut demand for business travel to Shetland.

“Shetland aims to grow its population through plans to encourage people to live, work, invest and study in Shetland,” the response adds.

“This will generate more travel in a scenario where more of the population are immigrants to Shetland who will have connections to other places with the need to travel more frequently.

“We aim to increase our tourism sector which has substantial additional potential in Shetland.”

But the fact that the government’s Air Discount Scheme – which offers islanders half price flights – does not extend to visitors or businesses is creating obstacles to access to Shetland, according to ZetTrans.

And even with the discount, “those on lower incomes find the cost a barrier to travel”.