Aviation Strategy - Transport Committee Contents

4  Airports in the south east and the hub debate

54.  Airports in the south east are already particularly busy. London has five airports with six runways and Dale Keller from BAR UK told us:

Our ability to utilise that capacity as an industry is acclaimed worldwide. Gatwick is the busiest single-runway airport in the world. Heathrow's ability to use two runways on a small piece of land is completely unmatched anywhere.[110]

Despite this efficiency, the CAA explained that there was a market failure in the south east due to a lack of capacity, particularly at Heathrow.[111] Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham Airport, agreed that the so-called "capacity crisis" was confined to Heathrow.[112] Darren Caplan, CEO of the Airport Operators Association (AOA), quantified the problem by explaining that the UK's hub capacity has increased by a mere 4.3% over the last ten years, while the corresponding figures from some competitor hubs in Europe were "Spain at 47%, France at 20.3%, Holland at 11% and Germany at 9.4%".[113]

Why is capacity at the UK's hub airport important?

55.  We previously noted that hub airports have a unique role in delivering air connectivity due to the way in which they facilitate transfer traffic onto services that would otherwise not be viable.[114] It is clear that businesses in and around London value the breadth of services offered by the UK's hub airport. However, it is also important to people outside London.[115] Access to international destinations via Heathrow from airports outside the south east provides businesses in those areas with links to parts of the world that would otherwise not be available. The prospect of losing out on routes to new destinations, because of a lack of hub capacity, is of concern across the UK, as indeed is the potential for further erosion of the domestic air service network feeding the hub. Mr Keller suggested that the UK was already losing out on this basis, pointing to a recent survey of 86 airlines which showed that 53% were scheduling flights to other European airports on routes that would have come to the UK if capacity had been available, and 86% would seek to add additional services into Heathrow if capacity was freely available.[116] Routes lost by Heathrow were considered to be more likely to shift to competitor hubs in northern Europe, such as Frankfurt and Schiphol—where runway capacity was abundant—rather than to other London airports such as Gatwick or Stansted, which do not function as hubs.[117] This view was confirmed by Willie Walsh. He told us that while IAG's preference was to expand its long-haul network at Heathrow, growth that could not be accommodated at Heathrow was likely to go to other European airports, such as Madrid.[118] Mr Walsh added that the reason IAG had "spent so much money acquiring BMI" was to acquire access to slots that it could use for long-haul expansion.[119] He also suggested that other airlines might use this tactic in the future.[120] Colin Matthews, from Heathrow, explained why airlines are so keen to run long haul operations from Heathrow:

Let's take a route like London-Hyderabad or London-Seattle. The local demand in the south-east of this country is not enough to justify those routes. What is more, it is very variable—much more on a Sunday night than, say, in midweek. Therefore, airlines cannot sustain daily flights to those long-haul destinations without a hub that allows them to bring transfer traffic to one place, to even out the ups and downs of demand. We do have direct flights to Hyderabad, Seattle and 75 long-haul destinations that cannot be served from Gatwick.[121]

56.  Gatwick held a different view. It considered that reports of the demand to transfer at UK airports and the corresponding need for more hub capacity were overstated.[122] Gatwick's comments relate to the fact that there are different ways in which to calculate the number of passengers transferring at airports, which depends on whether you count only passengers travelling on through tickets and whether passengers are counted on both the arriving and departing legs of each journey via the hub.[123] We have assessed the different methodologies and note that whichever method of analysis one uses, it is clear that Heathrow consistently has a higher percentage of transfer traffic than Gatwick or any other UK airport. It was suggested to us during our visit to Frankfurt Airport that Heathrow is less reliant on transfer traffic than many of its European competitor hubs. The reason for this is that many of Heathrow's passengers are travelling to or from London as a destination in its own right.[124] Indeed, the majority of air travel does not involve "hubbing".[125] Low-cost airlines and charter airlines, for example, are not reliant on hub transfer traffic,[126] although small numbers of passengers may 'self-transfer' onto such services. The importance of a hub is therefore primarily about the UK aviation sector competing internationally and ensuring that scheduled airlines are able to provide long-haul destinations that would not be served from the UK in the absence of a hub.[127] The UK's hub airport is of great importance to all the regions of the UK. It plays a unique role in connecting the country to the rest of the world—a role that could not be adequately fulfilled by a non-hub airport. It is imperative that the UK maintains its status as an international aviation hub.

57.  Spare capacity at the UK's hub airport—and indeed at any airport—is also essential in terms of the resilience of airport operations. NATS told us that the fact that Heathrow is currently operating at full capacity means that "any disruption has an immediate impact".[128] In recent years, disruption to Heathrow's operations due to bad weather has been the subject of negative press coverage. We noted in our report, Keeping the UK moving: The impact on transport of the winter weather in December 2010, that capacity was a constraint on Heathrow's ability to recover from periods of closure.[129] The Mayor of London told us that "the slightest perturbation causes chaos at Heathrow. It is a real cause of economic loss to this country".[130] NATS considered that it was important to look not just at adding slots for more aircraft, but also at resilience issues, if capacity were increased at Heathrow.[131] For example, capping runway capacity utilisation at, say, 75% (compared to 99% today) could improve resilience. However, the consequences of doing this are unclear. Richard Deakin, from NATS, said that capping capacity in this way would be a decision for the Airports Commission.[132] Any increase to capacity at the UK's hub airport must address the need to improve airport resilience, particularly in the event of bad weather, but this should not restrict the overall benefits derived from increasing runway capacity.

Potential solutions

58.  A number of solutions to the south east hub capacity problem have been proposed, including building an entirely new hub airport, linking existing airports by high-speed rail to form a "split-hub", and expansion of one or more existing airports. These options are discussed below. Later in this section we also discuss some of the short-term options that might address the problem of hub capacity.


59.  There are numerous proposals that have been put forward for a new hub airport in the Thames estuary, including those identified in table 4:
Table 4: Selected proposals for a new hub airport in the Thames estuary
ProposalPromoted by Location
London Jubilee International Airport Thames Estuary Research and Development Company (Testrad) Outer estuary: North of Herne Bay
Thames Hub Airport Foster and Partners/Halcrow Inner estuary: On the Isle of Grain
London Britannia Airport GenslerInner estuary: On a centrally located floating island
London Gateway Airport Independent Aviation Advisory Group Inner estuary: At Cliffe
Goodwin SandsBeckett Rankine Outer estuary: Off Deal
MarinairThames Estuary Airport Company Outer estuary: North east of Whitstable

60.  The estimated timescales involved in constructing these potential developments varied from 7 to 15 years.[133] Allowing for time taken for applications, consultation and approval, Foster and Partners estimated that the earliest their proposed airport could open was 2027.[134] Journey times from central London to the airport would be, at best, approximately 30 minutes and journey times to the core of Heathrow's catchment area, which lies to the west of London, could be significantly greater.[135]

61.  The Mayor of London's aviation adviser, Daniel Moylan, told us that the advantage of a new hub airport in the Thames estuary or indeed at Stansted was the "tremendous potential for regeneration of east London".[136] However, the Mayor explained that regeneration was a "secondary consideration" and that the most important thing was to "stop haemorrhaging jobs and opportunities to our continental rivals" due to the lack of hub connectivity to emerging markets.[137] The Mayor was understandably reluctant to back any specific proposal until the completion of further feasibility studies that he had commissioned.[138] Ian Mulcahey, Managing Director of Gensler, considered that another potential advantage of the estuary solution was that there would be "fewer" people affected by the noise, pollution and congestion generated by a major airport.[139] Huw Thomas, from Foster and Partners, explained that an overlay of the current noise contour from Heathrow over the proposal for the Thames Hub Airport showed that there would be a significant drop in the number of people experiencing noise annoyance, which he quantified as approximately 10% of the number of people currently suffering around Heathrow.[140] However, Ed Mitchell, from the Environment Agency, pointed out that "Heathrow did not start surrounded by quite so many houses and people" and that once an airport is built "people will come".[141] Groups representing residents living in areas that are likely to be affected by an estuary hub have already been vocal in their opposition.[142] There was also vocal opposition from Mr O'Leary who described the idea of a new hub in the estuary as "insane, stupid and hare-brained".[143] Such an airport had also previously been described by NATS as being in the "very worst spot" for the south east's crowded airspace.[144] NATS subsequently told us that, in terms of airspace, if a new hub airport was built "something would have to give", as it would be difficult to run the new hub efficiently alongside the existing airports in the south east.[145] However, NATS assured us that it could rise to the challenge of designing airspace in response to any future development.[146]

62.  Specific environmental concerns were also highlighted. The Thames estuary area provides a habitat for over 300,000 migrant birds that rely on the area for feeding and roosting during the winter.[147] Paul Outhwaite, from the RSPB, told us that parts of the Thames estuary were "protected by environmental regulation and laws under the habitats regulations".[148] Under these regulations, once a proposed development has passed certain tests, it is necessary to compensate for the land and the habitat that are destroyed.[149] Habitat protection requirements in the Thames estuary were described by the Environment Agency as "quite a stiff challenge" that might be possible to overcome depending on the exact location of the development.[150] There were also concerns expressed to us about "birdstrike" —collisions between birds and aircraft which might require an extensive clearance zone of birds around the new site.[151] Groups putting forward proposals for a new hub airport in the estuary area had also considered other environmental challenges, such as future sea-level rise and the risk of flooding.[152] The Environment Agency indicated that it had attended some early stage discussions on the proposals and that it would be able to work with developers to find solutions to these challenges.[153] Another potential challenge for developers is the presence of unexploded ammunitions on the World War II ship, SS Richard Montgomery, which sank in the Thames estuary in 1944.[154] However, Mr Thomas told us that:

the advice we have taken from the Ministry of Defence is that we will not disturb the SS Montgomery in terms of the construction works we carry out. If there is a risk of the collapse of the SS Montgomery we believe that the platform and the defences we are creating adequately protect the airport.[155]

63.  We also heard concerns about the potential cost of a new hub airport.[156] The proposals for new hub airports have been worked up to varying levels of detail, with some developers able to provide a detailed breakdown of costs (much of which is commercially sensitive) and others not.[157] We sought an independent assessment of the conditions under which a new hub airport—regardless of the specific details of the proposal—would, or would not, be likely to be commercially viable. We commissioned research on this subject from Oxera Consulting Ltd, who looked at a range of scenarios covering various airport designs, demand forecasts, cost estimates and assumptions about the level of airport charges. Oxera's analysis suggested that a new hub airport would not be commercially viable on a free-standing basis. While the airport as a stand-alone project might repay the investment, substantial public subsidy of £10-30 billion would be needed, for example, to cover the costs of surface access or compensation if Heathrow was closed. Nevertheless, Oxera concluded that from a public perspective, a new hub airport might still offer good value for money, depending on the scope of wider benefits that it could facilitate. Oxera's findings are published in full in Annex B.

64.  We put Oxera's findings to proponents of new hubs and while there were some differences of opinion on the exact figures, the broad conclusions about the need for public subsidy were accepted.[158] Mr Moylan raised a specific concern that Oxera appeared to have accepted the cost of a third runway at Heathrow without making any comparable assessment of the additional public transport and road infrastructure that would be needed to support it. However, Oxera later clarified that the estimate they used for the cost of a third runway at Heathrow was based on a value, uprated for inflation, from the DfT's 2007 aviation forecasts, which did include surface access infrastructure costs.[159] Foster and Partners noted that "no aviation expansion comes without additional surface access. Inevitably some of this will need to be provided by the public purse".[160] The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP, the Secretary of State for Transport, told us that "as far as infrastructure is concerned, we would always want to service the major hub airport of the country".[161] However, he was reluctant to be drawn into more detailed conversations about public subsidy that might prejudge the recommendations of the Airports Commission.

65.  Oxera also concluded that a new hub airport would have a considerable impact on Heathrow and other London airports. In particular, the new hub would be more likely to be commercially viable if Heathrow was closed. The view that Heathrow could not continue in its current form, and that it might need to be either closed or downgraded, was shared by a number of witnesses.[162] The impact of this was described by some as devastating.[163] We were told that Heathrow was "an international brand, and we would damage that at our peril".[164] Concerns were raised about the impact that the closure of Heathrow would have on the west London economy, particularly with regard to the number of people who depend on Heathrow directly or indirectly for employment, and the impact on businesses to the west of the city along the M4 corridor.[165] It was suggested that as it would take over a decade for a new airport to be operational, businesses would have time to plan ahead and potentially relocate.[166] Mr Walsh pointed out that:

While I know there are many local councils, authorities and groups who oppose the expansion of Heathrow, there would be very few who would support the closure of Heathrow because of the effect that it would have on employment, business and the general economic conditions in the environment.[167]

The London Borough of Hounslow acknowledged that it was "caught between a rock and a hard place".[168] The London Borough of Hillingdon indicated that while it would not be happy if Heathrow closed, it would "look positively" at the prospect of regeneration of the site.[169] The redevelopment of some or all of the Heathrow site could provide additional housing or generate new jobs.[170] The Mayor of London considered that there would be some relocations but he did not believe that there would be a net loss to west London".[171]

66.  While there is some support for a new hub airport to the east of London we note that there are significant challenges associated with such a development. These include: designating airspace in an already crowded environment, mitigating birdstrike, and dealing with environmental challenges such as potential future sea-level rise and the risk of flooding. There are also potential impacts on habitats in and around the Thames estuary to take into account. Furthermore, uncertainty remains over the number of people that would be affected by noise from a new hub airport as both it and the surrounding community grew.

67.  We reject the proposal for a new hub airport east of London, in part due to the challenges described above, but primarily on the following bases:

  • a new hub airport will not be commercially viable without significant public investment in new infrastructure, as shown by the research we commissioned;
  • a new hub airport will only be viable if Heathrow closes as a commercial airport;
  • a new hub airport will increase passenger movements from centres of population, potentially generating more carbon emissions as passengers have to travel further to and from the terminals; and
  • the closure of Heathrow would, in our view, be unacceptable due to the impact on the local economy and the huge disruption caused by the potential relocation of businesses and individuals in the vicinity of Heathrow.

We are also unconvinced that the aviation industry—which would ultimately pay for using the new hub through airport charges—would support a new hub airport at the level of costs which are likely to be required. It should not be assumed that all traffic would automatically transfer from Heathrow to a new hub as many passengers, particularly those with journeys originating in or destined for west London, might choose to use Gatwick, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Exeter or Luton airports instead, even if that meant connecting through a hub airport overseas.


68.  Another solution to the hub capacity problem would be to connect two existing airports by high-speed rail to form a "split-hub". This would potentially eliminate the need for new runways at existing airports. The best-known examples are the proposal for a "Heathwick" hub, connecting Heathrow and Gatwick, or for a connection between Heathrow and RAF Northolt. The latter proposal would also require the reorientation of the existing runway at Northolt.[172] There was limited support for these two proposals.[173] We were informed by a number of organisations that such an approach would be highly uncompetitive,[174] particularly in comparison to the passengers experience at competitor hubs in Europe and the Middle East, where there are rapid transfer times (significantly less than an hour) from plane to plane.[175] We conclude that a split hub would not be a viable solution to the hub capacity problem and we reject these proposals.


69.  We also considered the option to increase capacity at existing airports, including the UK's current hub, Heathrow. The Mayor of London was clear about his view on this subject: "the one option I think is not going to work is to continue to sink cost and investment into the cul-de-sac of Heathrow expansion because you already have a major environmental problem, which you are going to exacerbate".[176] However, Willie Walsh, from IAG, told us that he believed that "the issues of noise, local air quality and global climate change [from a third runway at Heathrow] could be addressed [in 2009 and] I still believe that that is the case".[177] Despite this, after years of fighting for a third runway at Heathrow, Mr Walsh told us that he had given up on it ever being built. He informed us that while he still believed that building a third runway at Heathrow would be in the nation's interests, he was now working to ensure that British Airways (BA) would continue to grow without it.[178]

70.  Business groups on the other hand remain overwhelmingly in favour of a third runway at Heathrow, which could probably be operational within 10 years (including time taken for planning and construction). However, their wish-lists were not confined to this, as demonstrated by the following responses:

Stuart Fraser (City of London Corporation): We want a runway at Heathrow. We need it started tomorrow. We do not have time to explore another thousand options, frankly. […]

John Dickie (London First): I would be just as clear and even more demanding. I would like to see a runway at Heathrow and I would like to see it now. I would like to see another runway at Gatwick and I would like to see it now. […]

Corin Taylor (Institute of Directors): […] I think we should have a third and preferably a fourth runway at Heathrow, and a second runway at Gatwick.

Mike Spicer (British Chambers of Commerce): […] additional runway capacity in our existing assets—at Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow—is the way forward. That is the pragmatic solution.

Rhian Kelly (Confederation of British Industry): […] we need an answer that is durable and that does not get changed the moment we have a change of Government.[179]

71.  While Heathrow is already operating at full capacity, other airports in the south east are not. It might therefore be assumed that the need for additional capacity at other airports, as described above, is less urgent. However, John Dickie, from London First, reminded us that forecasts show that Gatwick will be full in 10 to 15 years' time and it takes roughly that long to build a new runway with the necessary accompanying infrastructure.[180] Eddie Redfern, from TUI Travel, and Andrew Cooper, of Thomas Cook Group agreed that Gatwick would probably need additional capacity. Mr Redfern added that he would support additional runway capacity at any airport that had demonstrated the need.[181] Michael O'Leary, from Ryanair, and Mark Tanzer, CEO of ABTA, went further, advocating three additional runways: one each at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.[182] Mr O'Leary explained that this excess capacity, spread across three airports, was "absolutely critical" because it "drives competition, […] drives down costs and drives a better deal for passengers for both the UK going abroad and for visitors coming here".[183] He estimated that it would take 10 to 15 years to deliver all three runways and indicated that private investors would probably pay for them.[184] We note, however, that on their own new runways distributed across a number of airports will not provide a long-term solution to the specific problem of capacity at the UK hub airport and that Mr O'Leary's comments represent those of a low-cost airline, which is typically less reliant on the services offered by a hub airport.

72.  Gatwick Airport was the lone aviation industry voice that opposed a third runway at Heathrow, on the basis of increasing competition.[185] Stewart Wingate explained that:

the airport industry in the UK has gone through a great deal of change in the last three or four years following the break-up of BAA, under which the airports were in monopoly ownership. For us, competition is at the heart of a successful airport sector. The vision we are painting is to have a second runway at Gatwick, […] and then, in due course, to have a second runway at Stansted, as well as competition from the likes of Luton, London City and Southend.[186]

While it was acknowledged that Gatwick had managed to diversify its portfolio of flights since the change in ownership,[187] it was suggested that expansion of Gatwick alone would not solve the hub capacity issue.[188] Moreover, Mr Walsh expressed doubts that there was a business case for a second runway at Gatwick.[189] We note that since the change in ownership, Gatwick has attracted new long-haul services and is keen to compete with Heathrow. We note Gatwick's vision for a second runway and we encourage the airport's operator to develop a robust business case to demonstrate the role that a two-runway airport could play in increasing airport competition. However, on their own, new runways distributed across a number of airports will not provide a long-term solution to the specific problem of capacity at the UK hub airport.

73.  We received a number of written submissions expressing concern that a third runway at Heathrow would inevitably raise the question of a fourth in the future.[190] Mr Walsh was reluctant to rule out the need for a fourth runway at Heathrow but considered that three runways "may well be sufficient".[191] Four runways at Heathrow was the solution favoured by Policy Exchange and CentreForum in a recent report that suggested building the new runways 3 km to the west, as opposed to building a single third runway to the north, of the current Heathrow site.[192] Relocating the runways in this way might result in less noise annoyance for residents under the current flight path, thus addressing the most politically significant objection to expansion of Heathrow.[193] The prospect of less noise from runways that were further away, if combined with a ban on night flights, was considered by the London Borough of Hounslow to be "a more welcome option".[194] We discussed the proposal with David Skelton, from Policy Exchange, who explained that the development could be fully operational by 2030 and that the estimated cost of this proposal was between £8 billion and £12 billion.[195] He accepted, however, that more detailed engineering work was necessary to give a definitive number. This might include a more detailed study of some of the issues identified by Foster and Partners, one of the firms backing a new hub airport in the Thames estuary, who argued that the Policy Exchange proposal "would require the closure of the Wraysbury reservoir" which would have impacts on "the water supply system, environment and the road network".[196] Mr Skelton maintained that expansion of Heathrow in this way would be "considerably cheaper" than alternative proposals for new hub airports as it made use of the existing infrastructure around the airport, in terms of transport, terminals and other facilities.[197] An expanded Heathrow might also require improvements to existing surface access infrastructure and we return to this subject later in our report.[198]

74.  Another plan that would tackle the hub capacity issue and make use of existing infrastructure is the proposal to turn Stansted into a four-runway hub airport. While there are few details on the costs and benefits of this proposal, it is one of three potential solutions that the Mayor of London is studying in detail, ahead of sending his views to the Airports Commission.[199] The Institute of Directors pointed out that Stansted was badly connected to other parts of the UK but acknowledged that "it would be the best location for a new hub airport, should it prove impossible to expand Heathrow".[200] We note that proposals for a new four runway airport south of the existing Luton Airport site have also been put forward.[201]

75.  The prospect of a larger Gatwick or Stansted led us to consider whether the UK might be able support two independent, competitor hub airports. Some witnesses argued that the UK market was not big enough to support two separate hubs,[202] and as we previously concluded, we do not support the closure of Heathrow.[203] However, Paul Kehoe, from Birmingham Airport, argued that "even the UAE with a population of 5 million has two hubs, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, […] built around their two airlines Etihad and Emirates".[204] He indicated that it was the airline and not the airport that made the hub and that the UK could be encouraging other airlines to develop a second hub.[205]

76.  The current situation is unsustainable. A two-runway hub airport is not adequate for the needs of the UK. We have considered the options put to us and on the basis of the evidence we have heard we recommend that the Government allow Heathrow to expand. Heathrow is the jewel in the crown of international aviation and we believe that a third runway is long overdue. British businesses are overwhelmingly in favour of this option. An expanded Heathrow might require improvements to surface access that would build on existing infrastructure and we make recommendations on this subject later in our report.

77.  We note the concerns that a third runway at Heathrow may not be sufficient to meet long-term increases in demand. However, we do not believe that question can properly be addressed until we can more accurately predict the long-term changes in demand resulting from factors such as HS2 in rebalancing the economy and making airports in the Midlands more accessible, and from the potential of additional capacity at other airports such as Gatwick. This, however, does not remove the real need for a third runway at Heathrow to address capacity constraints in the foreseeable future.

78.  We acknowledge the very real environmental concerns that have been expressed by residents living in the vicinity of Heathrow. People affected by noise from an expanded Heathrow must be adequately compensated and our recommendations on noise compensation are set out in paragraph 53.

79.  We would also like the Airports Commission to assess what conditions may realistically be applied to an expansion of Heathrow in order to mitigate noise pollution.

80.  We have also considered the proposal to build new runways at Heathrow 3 km to the west of the existing site. While there is currently not much detailed information on this proposal we believe that it has merit, particularly as relocating the runways could reduce the noise annoyance currently experienced by people affected by the flight path. We recommend that the Government also consider the option to expand Heathrow to a four runway airport to the west of the existing site. We recommend that the Airports Commission assess the feasibility of this proposal and its implications on noise levels.


81.  There are few short-term options that will address the problem of hub capacity. In the absence of new runways, passenger numbers might still be able to grow, for example, through the introduction of larger planes.[206] We also previously noted that there might be some scope to shift small business aircraft to designated business airports, thus freeing up some capacity at Heathrow.[207] Alternatively, changing the way in which airports operate might also have an impact on how much additional capacity could be squeezed out of existing infrastructure. Heathrow Airport recently completed its Operational Freedoms Trial, which looked at the impact of changes in airport operating procedures. Such changes are designed to make the airport more efficient and more resilient but the Mayor of London told us that Londoners are concerned that these measures "will have a detrimental impact on their quality of life".[208] Of particular local concern is the use of mixed-mode operations at Heathrow, whereby planes are allowed to land and take off on the same runway, as distinct from segregated mode where one runway is used for arrivals and the other for departures. This is considered to be a short-term fix to the capacity problem.[209] The London Borough of Hounslow told us that mixed-mode operations "destroy" the quiet respite periods that local residents enjoy.[210]

82.  We welcome changes to operational procedures at Heathrow that will make the airport more efficient and more resilient. Some changes, such as the introduction of mixed-mode operations, may help in the short-term to address the capacity problem. However, mixed-mode operations are inherently undesirable because they deprive local residents of periods of respite from aircraft noise. We recommend that the Government consult residents in the vicinity of Heathrow airport and others affected by noise under the flight path before any final changes to operational procedures are introduced.

Surface access

83.  Good quality, efficient and reliable rail and road access to airports contributes greatly to the experience of passengers, freight operators and airport employees.[211] If surface access links to airports were improved, airlines might also be enticed to transfer their services to airports in the south east that are not as capacity constrained as Heathrow, leading to greater competition between airports.[212] The airlines we heard from expressed particular concerns about the rail links to London's airports. Simon Buck, from BATA, told us that the Gatwick Express used to be a world leading non-stop service between the airport and central London but that it has been degraded to a stopping service on the route from Brighton.[213] Similar concerns were raised in relation to the Stansted Express service.[214] The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry told us that it:

would like the Thameslink franchise to mandate the reinstating of the dedicated Gatwick Express, an upgrading of rolling stock to suit the needs of air passengers and the removal of ticket barriers to allow a seamless travel experience for passengers who are currently forced to wait and queue to exit the airport and join the rail network.[215]

In broader terms, Gatwick suggested that in designing tender documents for new rail franchises that will serve major international airports, the Government needed to specify clear requirements on the delivery of high-quality air-rail services and lay down the specific characteristics of service that airports need.[216] Gatwick added that rail timetables and infrastructure should be designed to cater for growth in air passengers and commuters separately. The Secretary of State indicated that the Government was committed to investing in improved infrastructure.[217] For example, improving railway links to major ports and airports is one of the strategic priorities in the Government's 'Railways Act 2005 Statement for Control Period 5'. This statement identifies specific ideas that the Government has put forward to improve or augment rail access to Heathrow and Gatwick.[218] However, there is no mention of Stansted or other London airports.

84.  An expanded Heathrow would also benefit from better surface access. Foster and Partners warned that "without sufficiently new and capacious rail connectivity, an expanded Heathrow would place yet further demands on a local road network already suffering severe capacity constraints and consequentially result in worsening of already poor air quality impacts".[219] Furthermore, Corin Taylor, from the Institute of Directors, argued that if Heathrow remained the UK's main hub airport, the High Speed 2 (HS2) railway line should run straight through Heathrow.[220] Mr Walsh suggested that this might reduce the need for direct flights between, for example, Manchester and Heathrow, thus freeing up a limited amount of capacity at Heathrow.[221] The Secretary of State was reluctant to pre-judge the findings of the Airports Commission but confirmed that the previously proposed "Heathrow loop" to the HS2 network could be reintroduced if necessary.[222]

85.  Surface connections to major airports in the south east are poor. Road access to each of these airports is far from optimal. In terms of rail access, Gatwick and Stansted are on already congested commuter lines. Heathrow is not yet on the national rail network (with the exception of the limited Heathrow Express rail link which connects to London Paddington), although it will shortly be served by Crossrail and a western rail access to Reading and the Great Western network was announced in July 2012. Our view is that Gatwick and Stansted should each be served by a dedicated express rail service that is fit for purpose.

86.  While the Government has identified the need to improve railway links to major airports as one of its strategic priorities for Control Period 5 it does not go far enough in setting out exactly what its strategy is. In preparation for the next control period, we recommend that the Government develop a coherent strategy to improve road and rail access to the UK's major airports. As part of this, an assessment should be made of the surface access requirements from the growth of aviation, and in particular, the changes to surface access infrastructure that will be necessary if Heathrow expands. The Government should ensure that the service requirements of major UK airports are incorporated into future rail franchise agreements with rail operators serving those airports. Also, if as we recommend Heathrow is allowed to expand, the Government must ensure that the High Speed 2 rail network serves Heathrow.

110   Q 87 [Dale Keller] Back

111   Q 307 [Andrew Haines] Back

112   Q 382 [Paul Kehoe] Back

113   Q 411 [Darren Caplan] Back

114   Paragraph 7 Back

115   For example: Q 412 [Graeme Mason]; and Q 485 [Garry Clark] Back

116   Q 71 [Dale Keller] Back

117   Q 12 [Simon Buck]; and Q 139 [Colin Matthews] Back

118   Qq 271-273 [Willie Walsh] Back

119   Qq 271-274 [Willie Walsh] Back

120   Q 288 [Willie Walsh] Back

121   Q 138 [Colin Matthews] Back

122   Q 138 [Stewart Wingate]; and AS 068A [Gatwick Airport] Back

123   AS 068A, Appendix 3 [Gatwick Airport] Back

124   Q 138 [Stewart Wingate]; and Q 206 [John Stewart] Back

125   Q 5 [Paul Simmons] Back

126   Q 34 [Paul Simmons]; and Q 113 [Eddie Redfern] Back

127   Q 11 [Sian Foster]; and Q 138 [Colin Matthews] Back

128   Q 326 [Simon Hocquard] Back

129   Transport Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2010-12, Keeping the UK moving: The impact on transport of the winter weather in December 2010, HC 794 Back

130   Q 764 [Boris Johnson] Back

131   Qq 327-329 [Simon Hocquard and Richard Deakin] Back

132   Q 331 [Richard Deakin] Back

133   Qq 643-643 [Ian Mulcahey, Huw Thomas, and John Olsen] Back

134   AS 039A [Foster+Partners] Back

135   Qq 571-577 [Huw Thomas and John Olsen]; and Qq 781-782 [Boris Johnson and Daniel Moylan] Back

136   Q 767 [Daniel Moylan] Back

137   Q 768 [Boris Johnson] Back

138   Q 767 [Boris Johnson] Back

139   Q 622 [Ian Mulcahey] Back

140   Qq 637-639 [Huw Thomas] Back

141   Q 759 [Ed Mitchell] Back

142   Q 703 [Joseph Ratcliffe]; AS 007 [No Estuary Airport campaign (Essex)]; AS 061, para 5.1 [Kent County Council]; and AS 060, para 5.5 [Medway Council] Back

143   Q 77 [Michael O'Leary] Back

144   The Guardian, Proposed Thames Hub airport in 'very worst spot' say air traffic controllers, 13 April 2012 Back

145   Qq 332-339 [Simon Hocquard] Back

146   Q 348 [Simon Hocquard] Back

147   AS 007 [No Estuary Airport campaign (Essex)]; AS 060, para 3.4 [Medway Council]; and AS 088, para 3.5 [Friends of the North Kent Marshes] Back

148   Q 682 [Paul Outhwaite] Back

149   Q 682 [Paul Outhwaite] Back

150   Q 745 [Ed Mitchell] Back

151   Q 683 [Paul Outhwaite]; and AS 095, para 10 [Wildlife Trusts] Back

152   Qq 580-585 [Huw Thomas, Ian Mulcahey and John Olsen] Back

153   Qq 744-750 [Ed Mitchell] Back

154   AS 060, para 3.8 [Medway Council] Back

155   Q 590 [Huw Thomas] Back

156   Q 163 [Stewart Wingate]; [Q 254] Willie Walsh; and Q 506 [Christopher Snelling] Back

157   Q 545 and Q 596 [Huw Thomas] and Q 556 [Ian Mulcahey] Back

158   Q 776 [Daniel Moylan], AS 039A, paras 8-15 [Foster+Partners] Back

159   Department for Transport, UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts, November 2007, Table 4.2, p 78 Back

160   AS 039A, para 15 [Foster+Partners] Back

161   Q 841 [Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP] Back

162   [Q 254] Willie Walsh; Q 441 [Corin Taylor]; Q 442 [Stuart Fraser]; Q 506 [Christopher Snelling]; Q 593 [Huw Thomas]; and Q 769 [Boris Johnson] Back

163   Q 261 [Willie Walsh]; and Q 711 [Colin Ellar] Back

164   Q 481 [Emma Antrobus] Back

165   Q 261 [Willie Walsh]; and Q 506 [Christopher Snelling] Back

166   Q 595 [Huw Thomas]; and Q 769 [Boris Johnson] Back

167   Q 261 [Willie Walsh] Back

168   Q 722 [Colin Ellar] Back

169   Q 719 [Jales Tippell] Back

170   Qq 604-606 [Ian Mulcahey]; and Q 769 [Boris Johnson] Back

171   Q 770 [Boris Johnson] Back

172   AS 030 [Rothwell Aviation Ltd] Back

173   AS 030 [Rothwell Aviation Ltd]; and AS 061, para 1.5 [Kent County Council] Back

174   AS 039, para 14 [Foster+Partners]; AS 040 [IATA]; AS 046, para 28 [London Chamber of Commerce and Industry]; AS 048, para 29 [ABTA]; and AS 107, para 2.60 [Institute of Directors] Back

175   Qq 25-28 [Sian Foster and Simon Buck]; Q 91 [Dale Keller]; Q 178 [Colin Matthews] Back

176   Q 806 [Boris Johnson] Back

177   Q 265 [Willie Walsh] Back

178   Q 283 [Willie Walsh] Back

179   Q 449 [Stuart Fraser, John Dickie, Corin Taylor, Mike Spicer, and Rhian Kelly] Back

180   Q 439 [John Dickie] Back

181   Qq 115-116 [Eddie Redfern and Andrew Cooper] Back

182   Q 75 [Michael O'Leary]; and Q 118 [Mark Tanzer] Back

183   Qq 84-85 [Michael O'Leary] Back

184   Q 78 and Q 96 [Michael O'Leary] Back

185   Qq 156-157 and Q161 [Stewart Wingate] Back

186   Q 156 [Stewart Wingate] Back

187   Q 439 [John Dickie] Back

188   Q 87 [Dale Keller]; and Q 247 Willie Walsh Back

189   Q 246 [Willie Walsh] Back

190   AS 028, para 4d [West Windsor Residents Association]; AS 035, para 7 [Zac Goldsmith MP]; AS 039, para 16.3 [Foster+Partners]; and AS 076, para 4.6 [Richmond Heathrow Campaign] Back

191   Q 275 [Willie Walsh] Back

192   Policy Exchange and CentreForum, Bigger and Quieter: The right answer for aviation, October 2012 Back

193   Q 636 [David Skelton] Back

194   Q 736 [Colin Ellar] Back

195   Q 553 and Q 645 [David Skelton] Back

196   AS 039A [Foster+Partners] Back

197   Qq 553-554 [David Skelton] Back

198   Paragraph 84 Back

199   Q 767 [Boris Johnson] Back

200   AS 107, para 2.62 [Institute of Directors] Back

201   Evening Standard, Heathrow battle: How Luton could be 'England's airport', 24 October 2012; and Policy Exchange and CentreForum, Bigger and Quieter: The right answer for aviation, October 2012 Back

202   Q 29 [Simon Buck and Sian Foster]; and Q 438 [Stuart Fraser] Back

203   Paragraph 67 Back

204   Q 385 [Paul Kehoe] Back

205   Q 385 [Paul Kehoe] Back

206   Q 245 [Willie Walsh] Back

207   Paragraph 33 Back

208   AS 104, para 22 [Mayor of London] Back

209   AS 040 [IATA] Back

210   Q 728 [Colin Ellar]; and AS 101, para 4.4 [London Borough of Hounslow] Back

211   AS 092 [Stansted Airport Ltd] Back

212   Q 168 [Stewart Wingate]; AS 035, para 17 [Zac Goldsmith MP]; and AS 079, para 13 [London First] Back

213   Q 65 [Simon Buck] Back

214   Q 65 [Paul Simmons] Back

215   AS 046, para 36 [London Chamber of Commerce and Industry] Back

216   AS 068, paras 30-31 [Gatwick Airport] Back

217   Qq 843-844 [Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP] Back

218   Department for Transport, Railways Act 2005 Statement for Control Period 5, paras 43-44 Back

219   AS 039A, para 28 [Foster+Partners] Back

220   Q 450 [Corin Taylor] Back

221   Q 256 and Qq 267-268 [Willie Walsh] Back

222   Qq 834-835 [Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP]; and Transport Committee, Tenth Report of Session 2010-12, High Speed Rail, HC 1185 Back

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Prepared 15 May 2013