Companies have been invited to submit tenders for the controversial air service between Bragança and Portimão.
The new route will serve Vila Real, Viseu and Cascais from bases in the north and in the Algarve at the municipal aerodrome at Portimão with a submission deadline of May 27th for a July 1st start, the June deadline having been scrapped.
The announcement of the public tender for the award has been published in the Official Gazette and is to run for three years, subsidised by the taxpayer.
This contract provides for the maximum expenditure of €7.8 million by the government as noted in a resolution of the Council of Ministers on December 18th last year.
In January this year, a correction was made by the Council of Ministers to the earlier resolution limiting state expenditure to €650,000 in 2015, payable to the lucky winner.
The 2016 and 2017 amounts could go to €2.6 million excluding VAT for each year. For 2018 the maximum amount guaranteed by law is €1.95 million, thus saddling the taxpayer with a multi-million exposure over the next three years as a commercial company runs a subsidised air service that has been created as 'oop north, ’the roads are not good enough.’
The operator may have no incentive to publicise and promote the route as it will get paid a subsidy for any shortfall.
Whether the north is indeed briming with entrepreneurs keen to fly to Portimão to 'invest' remains to be seen but the amount that Portimão council is spending on the Alvor aerodrome, with an unknown budget, seems to have caused a change of heart.
Earlier this year the mayor was full of notions of northern entrepreneurs flying to the Algarve to ‘invest’ but even Portimão, which has built its reputation of reckless spending, seems now to have decided that the route is destined to be yet another ill thought out drain on the taxpayer and seems to have gone off the whole idea.
In January 2014, Isilda Gomes considered that the investment in the aerodrome would be significant, given the importance of the route to the ‘sustainability of tourism,’ and that the council’s debt burden will not prevent it providing the airport with the conditions required for the operation of the air service, but she had no idea how much the upgrade would cost.
"We do not know what investment is needed to meet the requirements, given that this investment, taking into account the added value and the impact it will have, it is not a large one."
"The council is available to make the necessary investment because we cannot lose this opportunity," said Gomes adding that the new service is of the utmost importance and central to the “sustainability of the city and tourism."
Having seen the bills, Gomes has changed her mind and in an unexpected U-turn, has confirmed that the council still will undertake necessary upgrade work at the Alvor aerodrome, but now she has decided that the route will be ‘of little consequence’ to tourism in the region.