The ITC has released a major new report on aviation strategy in the UK, entitled ‘Flying into the Future: Key issues for assessing Britain’s Aviation infrastructure needs’. The research, drawing from responses to the ITC’s recent Call for Evidence, will be submitted to the Airports Commission led by Sir Howard Davies
The Independent Transport Commission (ITC) has released its new report, Flying into the Future: Key issues for assessing Britain’s aviation infrastructure needs. The report is based on the wide range of submissions received by the ITC in response to its Call for Evidence during Autumn 2012.
The key findings are as follows:
- First, the report identifies the
crucial importance of good aviation
connectivity for the UK economy and
jobs. The report concludes that
investing in our aviation
infrastructure is a critical
challenge that must be met if the UK
is to maintain investment from
growing economies such as China and
India. We face capacity constraints
in both long-haul and short-haul
travel, particularly in South-East
- Second, the report notes
that short-haul connectivity can be
improved by developing our regional
airports, close to local and regional
- But third, improving
long-haul connectivity – and even
maintaining the UK’s position in the
face of growing competition from
rival European airports – means
ensuring that the UK continues to
host a top-tier European hub airport.
This means an airport with
significantly more capacity than
Heathrow today. The report rejects
alternative suggestions such as 2
small hubs, or connecting different
airports as a “virtual hub”: they
would not compete effectively and
would leave the UK increasingly
dependent on connections via
3rd-country hubs in order to reach
The report suggests the most likely sites for an improved hub are Heathrow, Stansted or the Thames Estuary. It recognises that any decision will be contentious and that the Airports Commission and the Government will need to balance many factors. But it highlights 4 major issues:
• Closing Heathrow: the ITC concludes that if a major new hub is developed at Stansted or in the Thames Estuary, there is a high likelihood that Heathrow will need to close. This will have major implications, and needs far more attention than it has yet received.
• Costs and charges: on the basis of preliminary, broad-brush, estimates, the ITC fears that airlines and passengers might face charges at a new Estuary Airport more than twice those for an expanded Heathrow, and two-thirds more than at an expanded Stansted. It is essential that far more robust costings are produced for all options and the implications for charges and international competitiveness clearly understood.
• A new town? Building a major new hub, whether at Stansted or elsewhere, could require urban development including homes, schools, and local transport. The ITC estimates the size of such development would be on the scale of a new Peterborough for a 4-runway hub. This needs to be considered as much as the airport itself.
• Noise is the biggest local issue, particularly for Heathrow. But the report notes that planes are getting quieter and proposes an assessment of whether a package of measures – perhaps including moving the runways westward – would enable Heathrow to provide the extra connectivity needed while also reducing the problem of noise for Londoners.
The report is being submitted to the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies. The ITC will consider what further research should be commissioned to follow up particular issues of importance, with a view to assisting policy makers on this vital economic and infrastructure decision.
NB:The ITC expresses its thanks to all those who contributed towards the Call for Evidence and provided guidance on the report.