Heathrow Launches National Connectivity Task Force

CHE04770dLord John Shipley of Gosforth has been appointed as the independent chair of the National Connectivity Task Force which was first announced by Heathrow in its May submission to the Airports Commission.

The July 25 announcement coincides with Heathrow’s latest submission to the Airports Commission on its Discussion Paper on Utilisation of the UK’s Existing Airport Capacity.

Heathrow Airport Ltd (HAL) says: “after meeting with over 25 business groups and many individuals across the UK, the clear message was that Heathrow expansion has the potential to support growth across the whole of the UK.  But the challenge is to make sure that Heathrow can regain the air links to regions and nations that were lost as capacity constraints squeezed out domestic traffic.”

HAL says it will be inviting members from business, academia and industry experts from across the UK to make up the 15-strong Task Force whose purpose is to develop policy proposals and recommendations for improving regional access to an expanded Heathrow.  They will be required to deliver their findings to Heathrow by the end of this year: “to ensure they form a valuable contribution to the Airports Commission’s final report and recommendations.”

Lord Shipley, Chair of the National Connectivity Task Force, said:

“I’m pleased to have been asked to Chair the task force which has a vital job to do in casting a critical eye over how Heathrow currently connects to the rest of the UK, and how this could be improved in the future if a third runway were to be built at the airport.

“Businesses around the UK want to maximise their opportunities to trade in both established and emerging overseas economies and recognise the value connections to and through the UK’s hub airport.

“This independent Task Force will develop policy proposals and recommendations that will help to better connect the UK to Heathrow, and in turn, to current and emerging markets.”

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s Chief Executive, said:

“Only an expanded Heathrow can provide the connectivity needed to connect the whole of the UK to global growth

“Businesses and individuals from across Great Britain want to use the UK’s hub airport as their global gateway to overseas markets.  We already have strong and improving road and rail links to Heathrow. This Task Force will advise us on how to better connect Heathrow to the excellent regional airports across the UK.

“This Task Force will make a valuable contribution to turning Heathrow into a truly national asset for all parts of the UK and one of which we can all be proud.”

However, the Mayor of London’s office says Heathrow is admitting that even an expanded Heathrow may not improve regional connectivity.  A statement from the Mayor’s office said: “As Heathrow launches a task force to develop proposals for improving regional access to an expanded site, the airport have themselves confessed that “expansion has the potential to support growth across the whole of the UK.  But the challenge is to make sure that Heathrow can regain the air links to regions and nations that were lost as capacity constraints squeezed out domestic traffic.”

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, believes that only a new four-runway hub airport on the Isle of Grain can provide the country with the extra aviation capacity it needs, while delivering new jobs, homes and long term competitiveness.

The Mayor’s office says a response to be submitted by the Mayor’s team to the Airports Commission’s Discussion Paper inquiry into regional connectivity today (Friday, July 25) will support a recent study by York Aviation and Oxford Economics, which said an estuary airport would provide 49 more daily regional flights than a third runway at Heathrow.  It claims this new connectivity would deliver a £2bn boost and over 17,500 jobs to key city regions across the UK, on top of the 388,000 jobs and £43bn additional Gross Value Added created by the airport itself.

The Major’s study has also been prepared in conjunction with a series of events where his team has travelled across the UK and listened to the views of businesses, Government officials, and the airports.  It states the overwhelming response has been an acknowledgement that hub airport connections are especially important across the country and that having regional routes forced out of Heathrow is harming their economies.

It says its analysis: “highlights how a third runway at Heathrow would fail to reverse the decline in regional connectivity and predicts that even with a third runway the number of domestic routes would be reduced by the loss of the existing Leeds/Bradford route.

“A third runway would fill up very quickly due to suppressed demand at Heathrow, which already runs at 99% of its capacity.  Pressure on airlines to use slots for the most profitable routes would then mean domestic services would be crowded out again, which would prohibit new routes being set up and mean that established services to cities like Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle would not be immune to a further loss of frequency.”

The Mayor of London’s chief advisor on aviation, Daniel Moylan, said: “Heathrow themselves have admitted that additional regional connectivity is not a foregone conclusion should the airport be expanded.  It would be full as soon as it opened, meaning valuable domestic flights would continue to be muscled out by more lucrative transatlantic routes.  Heathrow are telling cities across the UK that there are a number of possible ‘fixes’ which could safeguard third runway slots for flights to regional airports but the reality is that there is no legal or regulatory trick which can do this.  Even a mechanism like the Public Service Obligation (PSO) is very restricted in its application – for example that no competing rail service exists.

“Only a new hub airport with spare capacity will create the conditions to improve connections between London and the rest of the UK and deliver an economic fillip for the entire country by giving us the right internal links to important new and emerging markets in areas such as Latin America and the Far East.

“With a new hub, seven cities and regions – Liverpool, Inverness, Newquay, Durham Tees Valley, Humberside, Dundee and Cardiff –  would gain new air connections to the country’s hub airport, and a further seven cities and regions would see their existing connections improved.”