The government is seeking expressions of interest for commercial airline operators in a bid to link Katherine and Tennant Creek to the airline network.

Katherine and Tennant Creek might again be an aeroplane milk run, connecting them to key hubs as the Northern Territory government seeks expressions of interest from airlines to link the regional towns to the nation’s air network.

Chief Minister Adam Giles says that after a year of consultations, it has become apparent the two towns “are crying out for regular air transport services”.

The government now wants to test the market to see what the industry might suggest to make the service a viable operation, and depending on the response, may support a two-year trial.

A “milk run” service, axed in 2004, took passengers and freight from Darwin to Alice Springs via Katherine and Tennant Creek, but Mr Giles said it was up to the industry to determine the most viable model.

The move comes as the NT has aggressively positioned itself to drive development of northern Australia, seeking to lead discussions with Western Australia and Queensland, saying it’s the natural link to the Top End and Asia.

“Transport is a key enabler of economic growth and a regular passenger service in the regions will support local industry, improve access to health and other essential services, as well as enhance tourism traffic through the Territory’s centre,” Mr Giles said on Friday.

The Department of Transport will consider the commercial viability, airfares and timetable, types of aircraft used, the start-up time frame, and how the service will support local industry and development, among other factors.

Proposals are due by 3pm on September 8.