Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee (IT 104)

A NEW DEAL FOR TRANSPORT: BETTER FOR EVERYONE

1. THE COMMITTEE'S LOCUS

  1.1 The Heathrow Airport Consultative Committee (HACC) welcomes the opportunity to submit its views regarding the Government's proposals for integrated transport to the Inquiry.

  1.2 The HACC is a committee established in compliance with the provisions of Section 35 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982, as amended by the Airports Act 1986.

  1.3 The Committee contains representatives from local governments, environmental groups, chambers of commerce and other business interests, the travel trade, airlines, consumer interests, air transport users, the tourism industry and trade unions. It therefore speaks on behalf of a wide range of international, national, regional and Greater London interests.

  1.4 The HACC is the main forum for consultation by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and by the Civil Aviation Authority regarding matters affecting users and airport impacted communities arising from the operation of Heathrow Airport.

  1.5 Heathrow Airport is a major contributor to the economy of the United Kingdom but in achieving this eminence, it exercises a substantial influence on land use, transport, environment, regional development and also the economy of both Greater London and its hinterland.

  1.6 Whilst it might be thought that the main interests of the HACC would be concerned primarily with air transport, policies on integrated transport will impact upon many of the matters which are the concern of the Committee given the multi-modal nature of the transport services upon which Heathrow Airport depends for its efficient operation and very existence.

2. THE WHITE PAPER POLICIES AFFECTING AIR TRANSPORT

  Our comments are written in the order in which the various policies appear in the White Paper.

  2.1 Sustainable air freight—the growth in air freight, and Heathrow Airport is the premier handler in the UK, gives rise to increased pressures on land use, both on and off airport, traffic and highway congestion. Most air freight is now carried in the belly holds of passenger aircraft and thus, this growth does not result in increased aircraft movements nor does it justify the creation of airports dedicated to carriage of air freight.

  2.1.1 There are no recent studies of the economic importance of this trade to the United Kingdom and the Committee welcomes Government's intention to commission new research into this activity. We see a viable future for the introduction of air/rail freight services and recommend that the research should cover this dimension.

  2.2 Integrated airports—the white paper is a disappointment insofar as its relevance to national air transport matters is concerned; very little attention has been paid to anything but peripheral matters. The last statement of Government policy was published in 1985 (Cmnd 9542) and that has been largely irrelevant for some years now given the considerable changes which have taken place in the air transport industry since that time. However, we are pleased to see that the policy will concentrate, inter alia, or integration with surface transport as it is absolutely vital that new major rail and road links with airports should be developed.

  2.2.1 Government has said that it will take account of the conclusions of the Inspector's report of the Inquiry into the proposed Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, which it does not expect to receive before year 2000, in preparing an airports policy. In view of this, it is probable that such a policy will not be published until 2001 and, following from that, the probability that any resultant legislation will have to compete for a place in the next Parliament's timetable.

  2.2.2 Although some members of the Consultative Committee do not believe in the concept of "Predict and Provide", it is recognised that successive Governments have failed to grasp the nettle of providing timely and sufficient airport capacity in acceptable locations to serve South East England or to recognise that the consequences of not doing this may lead to a situation where air travel has to be capped because of a lack of capacity.

  2.2.3 The consequences of such a situation would include

    (a)  increasing congestion occurring in the air and on the ground;

    (b)  the consequent impact on the environment;

    (c)  the harm to the national interest if this lack of timely planning loses the London airports their premier position in Europe; and

    (d)  giving an advantage to airports whose Governments are already implementing long term plans to take that lead—principally Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt.

  2.2.4 The White Paper offers nothing to address these concerns, promises little to alleviate the situation and, when an air transport/airports policy does finally appear, it is likely to be too late to remedy some of the important problems currently facing the industry and those affected by its operations.

  2.2.5 It should be recognised that for some 20 million people living in South East England, the London airports have a role as their regional airports in addition to that of being international gateways to the United Kingdom.

  2.2.6 Whilst the policy of encouraging the growth of international air services at regional airports is supported as a contribution to easing pressure at the London airports, too much must not be expected from this as the great majority of air passengers at those airports have their origins/destinations in South East England and the evidence of this is set out in the statistics provided in the Appendix to this memorandum.

  2.2.7 Recent experience has shown that some of the long haul international routes instituted at regional airports have not proved to be economically viable and that they have, as a result, been withdrawn at least temporarily, by the airline operators concerned.

  2.2.8 The recognition of the need for long term planning for airports is welcomes but 30 years is a long time in so volatile and dynamic industry which has a growth rate seldom matched elsewhere; examples of this are provided in the Appendix to this memorandum. Any policy will need to be extremely flexible to accommodate changing circumstances.

  2.2.9 We recommend that any national air transport/airports policy should be subject to review at intervals of not more than five years.

  2.3 Trans-European Networks—we welcome Government's intention to work with the European Commission on the development of these networks but note that consideration is, apparently, being limited to railways with no mention being made of the Airport TENS. The Airport TENS includes a number of continental airports which the Commission is giving financial assistance to and some of which are competing with those of the UK. This must not be lost sight of in Government's preparation of an airports policy with pressure to ensure that UK airports receive equal treatment.

  2.3.1 The HACC welcomes the references to the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (paragraph 3.214) which is expected to deliver a new international and domestic multi-modal transport interchange centred on Heathrow Airport, providing an international gateway for rail services across the UK.

  2.3.2 However, the development of Heathrow Airport has put considerable pressure already upon land use, ground transportation, labour resources and the environment in the airport's hinterland and the Committee will be concerned to learn more of the proposal and its implications for those people and organisations it represents before endorsing the plan wholeheartedly.

  2.4 Air Safety—the Committee has recently considered the questions of air safety and public safety zones involving aircraft using Heathrow Airport following recent Press reports of the ATC system being overloaded and of a number of claims of air misses. Its concern derives from the fact that the majority of aircraft accidents occur during landing or take-off at airport and this is exacerbated by the fact that 70 per cent of landings at Heathrow take place over the heavily populated areas of Greater London.

  2.4.1 The Committee is pleased to note Government's intention to separate air safety regulation from service provision and, particularly, of the intention to review the arrangements for public transport safety although we would wish to know more of the details of the public-private partnership proposed for NATS before endorsing such a scheme.

  2.5 Aviation and Airport Regulation—the proposals to regulate airports by bringing them into line with other utilities, to extend to the Civil Aviation Authority a duty to protect the interests of consumers and the creation of a duty on regulators to have specific regard to Ministerial guidance on environmental objectives could have implications for the consultative committees which exist at many UK airports and airfields as a result of their statutory designation by the Secretary of State under the provisions of section 35 of the Civil Aviation Act 1982.

  2.5.1 The Civil Aviation Authority has, of course, already got its own consumer interest organisation in the Air Transport Users Council (AUC).

  2.5.2 Successive Secretaries of State, Ministers of Aviation, airport operators, local governments, consumer and environmental organisations have all endorsed the concept and value to them of airport consultative committees as a means of looking after the interests of the providers and consumers of air transport as well as those affected by the operation of the industry. The Heathrow Committee as the first such organisation in the UK, is celebrating its 50th year of service to the community during 1998.

  2.5.3 The position of consultative committees should not be overlooked in the reforms being proposed. We would urge that any airport regulator should deal only with issues of national importance with the local Airport Consultative Committee overseeing all matters concerning the development or operation of the airport which have an impact on its users and on the people living and working in areas affected by the airport, i.e., on the issues which are matters of local concern requiring local solutions.

  2.6 Air Transport and the Environment—aircraft engine emissions and, to a much greater extent, noise, continue to be major problems affecting large numbers of people living and working in a wide area around Heathrow Airport. The problem of aircraft noise seems, from the increasingly wide area from which complaints are being received, to be affecting areas previously considered remote from this nuisance due to the larger numbers of movements which are having to be accommodated. The Committee welcomes Government's intention to give the issue of reducing noise a high profile in discussion with the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the European Union.

  2.6.1 The proposal to take powers to enable airports to enforce mitigation measures, for example against non-compliant airlines, and to enable local authorities to enforce noise mitigation agreements are potentially fraught with problems as false expectations of what is technically feasible and justified may be raised. International agreements may be involved where foreign airline operations are concerned as well as the difficulty of considering whether an aircraft is technically capable at all times of operating within a specified noise level having regard to operational and meteorological conditions. If local authorities are to be given powers to enforce noise mitigation agreements, they may have the necessary acoustic experts on staff but it is unlikely that they will have available to them the necessary aviation expertise with which to do this on an informed and fair basis.

  2.6.2 Airport consultative committees probably have a wider experience of the feasibility of undertaking such measures, particularly where they have noise and track keeping monitoring work undertaken in association with their airport operator, as well as their general considerations of environmental matters. They are in a strong position to be able to comment constructively upon any such proposals and would wish to be consulted by Government in their preparation and implementation.


 
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