Deputy David de Lisle comments on PSD proposals for the rehabilitation of the Guernsey airport pavement

January 6th, 2009 by David de Lisle

Deputy David de Lisle PhD wrote the following suggestions in response to the Public Services Department inviting members of the States of Deliberation to express their views about the Guernsey Airport pavement rehabilitation proposals after the successful Sursis in December 2008

Suggestions on alternative approaches that should be considered

It is my view that a full cost benefit study is required on the project—which would involve development of a base case and alternatives, and the identification and quantification of costs and benefits of each. The base case provides a basis against which the investment alternatives can be compared with the continued operation of the existing system. Benefit –cost analysis is a method for making systematic investment choices in the public sector and has wide application to aviation projects. There is need for economic evaluation of alternatives in order to determine which approach is the optimum course from an economic point of view and to ensure that investment tasks such as the resurfacing of the airport runway and pavements should be accomplished at least cost. Alternatives presented would also take into consideration externalities (environmental and social costs or benefits).

Guernsey is a small island with limited resources. Already the airfield extends over a huge area, near equivalent to half a Guernsey parish. There will be need for proper social and environmental impact assessment and benefit cost analysis on a range of upgrade alternatives that fully consider the impact on community and environment. There has to be proper consultation with the community and a full public inquiry.

Other potentially practical proposals which need to be considered when next presented to the States.

Rehabilitating the existing pavements only.

Amongst alternatives that need to be considered, that of ‘rehabilitating the existing pavements only’ is essential. This is an alternative that the PSD must fully cost out in any future submission to the States.

The £85 million base line scheme which proposes a new 253 metre paved area comprising a runway extension (‘displacement’), turnpad and starter strip to the West is unnecessary and hugely disadvantageous in terms of cost and its negative environmental impact.

A further plan to extend the whole runway to 1700 metres is also unnecessary, far too costly and hugely disruptive to the environment and communities.

The report to the States in December (para 1.14 p1472) clearly states the position of the Public Services Department: ‘As the Airport operator, the Department has seen no evidence to justify an extension nor is it persuaded that the situation will change in the foreseeable future’. In a letter to the Public Services Department dated 8th December 2008, Flybe comments on the Guernsey Airport Pavement Rehabilitation—‘Flybe’s fleet means that we have no requirement for an expansion of the runway. The current length (1463 metres) is sufficient for all the aircraft in our current fleet, including the Embraer 195 to use the runway. ‘The States should dismiss the idea of runway extension when there is no commercial need. Lengthening the runway is an expensive drain on the Island Exchequer and would be disruptive and inconvenient to the local residents during the construction’. ‘Flybe simply does not believe that we, our passengers, need to be overburdened in these challenging economic times with an ill-conceived runway extension and unnecessary changes to the everyday operation of the airport.’

What would be more sensible and cost effective would be to resurface all existing pavements to a very high standard, upgrading the landing systems, and as far as possible improving the Runway Extension Safety Areas (RESAs) without destroying the environment.

The Civil Aviation Authority document CAP 168 says that where there are physical constraints to achieving desired RESAs, mitigation measures can be considered as alternatives to reduced declared runway distances. And we certainly do have serious physical constraints in such a small densely populated island. These mitigation measures which are clearly outlined in Chapter 3 of CAP168 Pp 10-11, include the improvement of runway surfaces and the use of arrester beds amongst others.

In rehabilitating existing pavements only, the work would take place inside the existing airport perimeter and would avoid the huge costs of infill and above mentioned extension of the runway west. There would be no loss to infrastructure—La Mare Road—and no dumping of materials which absorb huge costs and environmental disbenefits. The current runway configuration as it stands now allows spare distances of 188 metres west beyond the runway end and 138 metres east beyond the runway end both within the existing airport perimeter and these should be examined more creatively. There would be no requirement for an Environment Impact Assessment or public inquiry in this alternative—although such costs would have to be built into alternatives that extend beyond the current perimeter.

I do not accept that the RESAs are non-negotiable and nowhere have I seen this stated in Civil Aviation Authority document CAP168, therefore I would ask you specifically to have this alternative properly considered and costed as a matter of priority.

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