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'Strong demand' for helicopter link.

Byline: Gemma Williams

A STUDY into a direct helicopter link from Cardiff to Heathrow has forecast strong demand from businesses in South Wales.

A working group from the public and private sectors led by Cardiff County Councillor Marion Drake, Deputy Mayor (Regeneration), jointly commissioned the study, which surveyed nearly 250 managers from Cardiff, Newport and the Valleys.

Around 90,000 South Wales business passengers a year travel by road to Heathrow to take flights all around the world. A further 26,000 take the link from Cardiff International Airport to Schipol, Amsterdam for international flights. Direct helicopter links from the new Cardiff Heliport to London would reach Heathrow in under an hour giving far greater convenience.

Participating managers were interviewed in depth in the spring and summer of last year. Extensive data on their choices relating to the likely price of a service, its frequency and transfer times was collated by leading UK transport experts Oscar Faber and Leeds University Institute of Transport Studies to construct a mathematical model enabling forecasts to be made of likely demand.

Various scenarios indicate up to 34,000 passengers a year would use the service at a price of around pounds 130 each way with nearly 62,000 passengers forecast to opt for the service if the price were included within their international flight ticket.

The council is now talking to a leading helicopter operator and a major manufacturer for them to make the proposal a commercial reality.

Choosing a modern 30-seat helicopter would enable far easier access to Heathrow direct from the Heliport and would not take valuable international slots from Heathrow Airport.

Both Heathrow and the Civil Aviation Authority will also need to be satisfied on the environmental aspects of the service. The recent announcement of the go-ahead for Terminal Five at Heathrow emphasises its importance as the main UK hub for international flights.

Coun Drake said: "With no similar existing helicopter service anywhere to study, Oscar Faber and Leeds University needed to develop from scratch a novel and robust way of forecasting demand for commuter helicopter services.

"The results of the study have proved a major and positive step forward and I am pleased to be involved in a project in which the capital city is once again leading the way and which will make a major contribution to furthering direct air links to Wales."
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 25, 2002
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