The Queensland government has officially called for bids from airlines to operate services on seven regulated regional air routes in the state as it seeks to boost the frequency and quality of services to and from areas that would otherwise be unviable without official intervention.
The state’s Transport and Main Roads Minister, Scott Emerson, on Monday issued requests to the market for airlines to pitch for the outback runs that the government had feared would lose services without a combination of direct subsidies and exclusive access by providers.
The bid to boost regional and remote airline services was a key election promise during the last state election campaign with many communities potentially facing a pull-out by air transport providers unable to sustain lossmaking services.
Aside from greatly limiting transport options and stunting the potential for economic development, the potential loss of air services in many regional communities presented a significant problem for local governments that stood to lose vital residents like doctors and and other essential professionals in the event planes stopped flying.
“We promised at the election to revitalise frontline services and we want the best value for money while still delivering quality air services to regional communities,” Mr Emerson said.
The state transport minister said the government wanted “innovative solutions” to ensure the challenged routed stayed viable and said there was an aim “to increase patronage growth in the coming years.”
Competition for limited customers in the regional air transport market has long been problematic across Australia with thin margins sending interstate players like Brindabella Airlines in New South Wales to the wall.
The collapse of Brindabella has reportedly left some NSW councils, including Moree, out of pocket after receivers wound up the company.
The Queensland government is visibly keen to avoid a similar situation on its own runs.
In an effort to create better medium-term certainty, it Mr Emerson said new contracts would run for as long as seven years.
“The documentation outlines criteria that interested organisations must satisfy to be considered for contracts on these regulated air routes,” M r Emerson said, adding that there had been “strong interest” from the aviation industry during recent briefings in Brisbane and Townsville.
The Transport Minister said regulated contracts for air routes that will be put to the market, starting January 1, 2015, will be:
• Brisbane-Toowoomba-St George-Cunnamulla-Thargomindah
• Brisbane-Toowoomba-Charleville-Quilpie-Windorah, Birdsville, Bedourie, Boulia and Mt Isa
• Cairns-Normanton-Gununa-Burketown-Doomadgee-Mount Isa
• Townsville-Hughenden-Richmond-Julia Creek-Mt Isa
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