London Ashford Airport at Lydd, Kent is in talks with a number of airlines interested in launching routes to European destinations like Paris and Brussels - news that should help soften the blow that Ashford is set to lose most of its international train services when the new £100m Ebbsfleet station opens next October.In an announcement that will dispel some of the gloom since it became clear on Wednesday that the Government-declared growth town of Ashford is to lose all Brussels trains and its off-peak Paris trains, the airport has revealed that new air services to UK and European cities are planned.
It is the first time that London Ashford Airport has admitted that it is in advance negotiations with airlines to launch new scheduled services. LAA is a 20 minute drive from Ashford and 10 minutes’ flying time from France, which is already an existing route.
‘Ashford is a vibrant and fast-expanding town and there is a huge amount of private and public sector investment in making it an economic powerhouse for Kent. All successful business centres need a modern airport on its doorstep and we are developing that airport here at Lydd,’ said LAA managing director Zaher Deir.
Already around £20m has been spent on upgrading facilities at LAA as the owners bid to create a modern regional airport capable of handling up to two million passengers a year by 2014.
Zaher Deir added: ‘If Eurostar services are being cut at Ashford International Station then it becomes even more crucial for local authorities, economic development agencies and others in the private sector to support our plans to offer a range of air transport services from Lydd.
‘We have invested heavily in modernising the airport and creating new jobs here. Now we are ready to play our part in helping Ashford to realise its full economic potential. Today we have the facilities and capacity to handle 300,000 passengers a year and could be ready to cope with 500,000 passengers a year within 12 months. We are ready for Ashford, so is Ashford ready for us?’ said Zaher Deir.
Mr Deir said he remained hugely excited at the prospects for economic growth and prosperity for Ashford and the surrounding district. High-speed rail services linking Kent with London are on the horizon, providing excellent connectivity with the capital.
Airport managers have always supported Ashford Borough Council and are looking forward to meeting council leaders to discuss ways in which the airport can play a key role in the local economy. In addition, Kent County Council and Shepway District Council have always stated the importance of LAA’s development as a catalyst for economic regeneration.
Zaher Deir said: ‘Following Eurostar’s decision, I’m sure that local authority leaders will be keen to further extend their support to allow LAA to play a pivotal role in the region’s economic growth.’
LAA is already providing private business jet services to clients flying into the UK from Europe, the Middle East and beyond. FAL Aviation UK is based at Lydd and provides handling services like fuel and repositioning, and an array of personal services, from chauffeur-driven vehicles, limousines, helicopter charter and luxury sky catering to floral arrangements, accommodation, and conference facilities for corporate, business and private aviation clients.
Around £20m has already been spent on resurfacing the runway, upgrading instrument landing systems, the creation of an aircraft parking apron covering a 13 acre site, a new air traffic control system and new VIP terminal, as well as new departure and arrival facilities for commercial traffic and establishing offices for Immigration and Customs.