Sunday, March 18, 2012

Australia: Regional plane travel on the up - report

The federal government will spend $5.4 billion upgrading regional airstrips where passenger numbers are growing faster than at major city airports.

In 2010, 22.5 million passengers travelled through regional airports, up from 16.8 million in 2005, a Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) report published on Monday shows.

As well, the average annual growth rate for passenger movements at regional airports exceeded that for major city airports for the first time, over the five years to 2010.

The growth rate was 6.1 per cent, against 5.7 per cent in major cities.

Transport Minister Anthony Albanese said the figures showed the long-term outlook for regional aviation and airline operators was very positive.

"The industry has consistently shown it can adapt to the growing reliance of Australians on aviation both for business and leisure as well as continuing its important role in delivering vital services to regional communities," he said in a statement.

Most of the growth in passenger numbers on regional air routes was due to more people travelling between major cities and regional areas.

However, the number of airlines serving regional airports continues to fall, to 28 in 2010 from 33 in 2005, the BITRE said.

Mr Albanese announced the government will spend $5.4 billion to upgrade 31 airstrips in remote areas in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, NSW, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.

Work on the first of these projects will begin in April.

The work will include installing pilot-activated solar airstrip lighting, clearing trees and shrubs, repairing runways and improving fencing and drainage.

Mr Albanese said the upgrades would help air services, such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Australia Post and freight and transport services, continue operating in isolated regions.


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