A MAJOR multimillion-pound investment programme is planned for Scilly transport at a time when it is about to lose a 49-year-old travel artery with the scheduled end of month withdrawal of the helicopters.
There will be more scheduled flights of the islands' Steamship air arm Skybus – as from November 1 the lone air operator on the island to mainland – and also an addition to the Twin Otter fleet.
The expansion comes at a critical and welcome time for island communications and accompanies a major improvement programme at Land's End airport. Refurbishment is also due to start this winter on the ship Scillonian III.
Being created at the cliff-top west Cornwall airfield are a new, purpose-built terminal building, a new baggage-handling facility, a dedicated arrivals' area, a new air traffic control and upgraded car parks.
They will be completed for the March start of next season coinciding with the return of Scillonian III.
A £4.5 million improvement plan for St Mary's airport is being progressed and the government has given the green light for a formal bid of £8 million of Government and European funding for St Mary's quay development.
Chairman of the Island Tourism Business Partnership Chris Gregory says the significant investments are part of a focused programme to improve the visitor experience.
"As a key tourism destination we are delighted that there are millions of pounds' worth of significant investments being made in travel infrastructure," he said.
"The investment is being made both in readiness for the start of the 2013 season and also across the medium and long term.
"Getting to the islands is such a fundamental part of the visitor experience. People love the fact that there are no long check-in lines, massive baggage halls and that there is a seamless and quick transition once they have arrived on the Islands."