Hial boss grilled over £9 million spend on air traffic control

The boss of Highlands and Islands Airports (Hial) has not ruled out pressing ahead with air traffic control centralisation, despite the procurement exercise being cancelled.

Inglis Lyon was appearing at a parliamentary evidence session being run as part of the airports in Scotland inquiry, being run to examine the modernisation of airports.

He insisted the project as a whole had not ceased and was ready to progress once talks with union leaders had reached a satisfactory conclusion.

But Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross pressed Mr Lyon for a breakdown of the spend so far made on the remote towers project, which had “ceased”.

Mr Lyon said the project had not ceased.

“What has ceased is the procurement for the remote tower solution,” he said.

He insisted there were other components, such as “a surveillance element” and tower modernisation.

Questioned further, the Hial boss accused Mr Ross of not listening.

But Mr Ross insisted he had been listening to communities concerned about the project.

“Are we saying approximately £3 million has been spent every year on this? What have we seen for that spend? Nine million pounds spent so far – what have you achieved out of that?”

Mr Lyon said: “We’ve moved forward the project to a point where, if we wanted to, we could actually start the project in earnest.

“However, we have this industrial relations problem which we are aware of and so we stopped until we find that compromised solution.”

Long-running industrial action associated with air traffic control centralisation was called off in October to allow talks to take place between Hial management and the Prospect Union.

One of the concerns surrounding the proposals around air traffic control have centred on connectivity. The issue was brought into focus when Mr Lyon’s link with the hearing was lost three times.

“Can you understand why communities would be worried about connectivity,” Mr Ross said.

Mr Lyon told him: “I’m working off a £39.99 router in my house. The kind of connectivity that we would be putting in isn’t a £39.99 router.”


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