£52m nationalisation of Cardiff International Airport

Last week saw the nationalising of Cardiff International Airport at a cost of £52m to Welsh taxpayers. Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales - who had only a few days earlier cried foul learning that Wales was only getting an extra £161m from the Treasury - made the announcement with glee.

It has been claimed that Cardiff Airport is a major gateway for Welsh business, but it has seen a steady decline in passenger numbers since 2007, from a peak of two million passengers annually.

The state-funded intervention is also inevitably going to have an impact on Cardiff's closest rival airport based in Bristol. Indeed, Bristol Airport's Chief Executive, Robert Sinclair, has been quick to raise concerns about the cost of the purchase,pointing out that:

‘the purchase price of £52m paid by the Welsh government... is well above market value when compared to recent transactions involving UK airports’

The idea of state intervention was dealt another blow when Swiss carrier Helvetic announced earlier this year that it was pulling out of Cardiff Airport, just two years after the Welsh Government spent £500,000 of taxpayers' money on its Wales in Switzerland initiative.

The next step, as outlined by the Welsh Government, is to improve the overall ambience of the airport with suggestions of further major capital spending on its appearance.

In January the Welsh Government claimed that any such purchase of Cardiff Airport would not burden the taxpayer. Yet given the  £52m price tag it's clear the cost of the airport is already being footed by the taxpayer, with that bill set to rise further as more money is pumped into it.

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