BATHURST Regional Council is set to consider an expressions of interest (EOI) campaign to quickly find a new carrier to replace Regional Express Airlines (Rex).
It was revealed last month that Rex is likely to scrap its route between Bathurst and Sydney at the end of May, as it has deemed the service no longer viable.
Deputy mayor Ben Fry sees reliable commercial air travel for Bathurst as a priority and, following discussions with Rex, has urged council to find a new airline to take over as soon as possible and potentially expand the services.
He has been working with council staff and, after many conversations, the proposal for an EOI campaign is set to be on the agenda for next week's council meeting.
"Off the back of Rex signaling that they have an intent to no longer serve Bathurst, I thought it was time to look for another carrier," he said.
"Of course, we've been in discussions with carriers, but we feel it prudent to go out to an EOI for the continuation of a passenger air service between our city and Sydney.
"Essentially, we think it's best to go for a general EOI process, where an airline can come to us with a proposal and show us what they think is right for this city."
While council has yet to vote on the EOI, Cr Fry feels confident other councillors will support the idea.
"From what I can gather from ringing all the councillors to garner support for the EOI process, I don't think there's one councillor that would be against this because we all see it as a critical link," he said.
If council resolves to proceed with the EOI process, Cr Fry said it will be launched as soon as possible, with proposals to be received by June 8.
Based on the deadline, Cr Fry expects that there will be a time where Bathurst is without a commercial service.
However, he said that the priority is to have a reliable service for the long term.
"No pain, no gain. So, if we've got to go without a service for a little while to ensure we get an even better service into the future, we will," he said.
"We're looking for an airline that wants to stick around for a lot longer and build a real partnership with our market and visitor tourism economy."
Rex currently offers twice weekly services between Bathurst and Sydney.
Cr Fry said that service has been unreliable for a long time and that is something he hopes to correct with a new airline.
He said it will be essential that the two services a week continue, but he is also hoping the frequency of flights can be increased.
"In my mind it's got to be a more frequent service than what we have at the moment," Cr Fry said.
"Ideally, a twice daily return service would be the best outcome for Bathurst, so professionals can come in or out of our city during the day, attend meetings or appointments or anything they like, and come back in the same day.
"That's the ideal scenario for me, but we'll just see how we go and what comes back to us from the market. You never know, when you go out for these EOIs sometimes you can get the classics that come in, but you can also see some new plans or something outside the square."
Cr Fry would also like to see flights operating on Sundays.
The hunt for a new airline to replace Rex comes at a time when council is investing in the Bathurst aerodrome.
Council's draft budget includes an $8 million allocation over the next two financial years to upgrade the terminal.
The upgrade would incorporate a refresh of the building and the introduction of security checking, which is essential if the larger airplanes want to land .
The draft budget is set to be adopted within the next month.
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