BATHURST Regional Council is expected to select an airline to begin negotiations with in the next week after the expressions of interest (EOI) period closed on Wednesday.
Council is moving quickly to install a new carrier to replace Regional Express Airlines (Rex), which will cease its flights between Bathurst and Sydney after June 30.
Deputy mayor Ben Fry said that council staff will assess the EOI submissions and identify which one they think is the best fit for Bathurst.
"A report will come to council next week about the expressions received. I'm told by the strategy team that they will be providing a recommendation of an airline to explore or negotiate further with and then it's really down to negotiating with that airline how far from the EOI they were and how their service might differ or might suit, or whatever they can provide in terms of best value for the people of Bathurst," he said.
"I'll be hoping that we can get something over the line properly and virtually commit to a service in the next couple of months. We know that Rex is out at the end of this month, so I want minimal time between services."
Council's EOI documentation included four essential criteria and a list of desirable criteria for a prospective carrier.
It was essential for the carrier to offer "at least two" Bathurst to Sydney flights and Sydney to Bathurst flights per weekday, with the capacity to increase the number of flights if needed once established.
Council also wanted at least one Bathurst to Sydney flight and one Sydney to Bathurst flight on Saturday or Sunday, and for the airline to overnight the plane at Bathurst Airport on weekdays to allow for an early flight out.
Finally, it wanted the carrier to have the ability to increase flights during key events, such as the Bathurst 1000.
Cr Fry said he was pleased with the level of interest from prospective carriers in recent weeks.
"It generated a lot of interest and we had a lot of airlines contact us interested in our EOI," he said.
"Obviously we've got some favourites and we've got some wishful thinkers in the mix, but essentially we'll leave it to our economic development team to nut out who the best one would be and recommend that to our broader council so we can vote on it and get it moving."
He was also impressed with the speed at which council moved to find a new carrier after discovering Rex would soon withdraw its services from Bathurst.
"I think we made a fair bit of noise about it, which is why council decided to act really quick on it," he said.
"I see it as a critical link between Bathurst and Sydney for professionals, medical appointments and tourism, so I think they realised that and our bureaucrats acted quickly - as quick as I've ever seen, to be honest - which is a good thing, and I'm glad we got something off the ground so quickly and attacked this problem proactively rather than reactively."
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