Surface transport to airports Contents

3Planning for future demand

40.If UK airports are to remain competitive, they, the Government and local authorities must address the surface access needs and preferences of current and future airport customers. This includes passengers and cargo operators.

41.Airport passengers are often not the main source of pressure on transport systems around airports. Growth in non-airport related passenger journeys around airports often has a much more significant impact on surface transport infrastructure than airport-related journeys. Evidence from Network Rail points to a “clear” and “growing”65 demand for rail travel to airports, but argues that rail passengers travelling to airports “do not represent a game changer for rail demand at the busiest time of day on the train network”.66 It adds that “The increase in demand faced by the railway is driven by the commuter market, which is creating peak passenger growth as high as 5-6% annually on some routes”.67

42.Modelling future demand for surface transport around airports requires accurate predictions of future airport-related journeys (staff, passengers and other services) as well as the impact of increased local journeys due to factors such as population growth and local housing and business development. Evidence to our inquiry demonstrated overall confidence in the models the government has used to predict future demand for surface transport to and from airports. Chris Chalk of Mott MacDonald pointed out that “the UK does more research on this than any other country in the world”.68 However, Dr Matthew Niblett of the Independent Transport Commission told us that the ITC “would like to see more work on future demand modelling and on the implications for national networks on road and rail”.69

43.Dr Niblett referred to work the ITC was undertaking with DfT to improve the Department’s forecasting methodology for road and rail, explaining that “some of the projected secular demand shifts are very dramatic, particularly in the South East”, and that “at the moment it is not entirely clear whether we have the information or the modelling required to properly understand what the impact of that is going to be on airport usage”.70

44.The predicted pressures on transport networks in the South East are of particular concern. On 18 November 2015, Transport for London warned of congestion “on a scale we have not seen” on road, rail and Tube corridors into central London if a third runway at Heathrow were not supported by “massive” investment to improve surface transport.71 This concern was reflected in evidence from Surrey County Council, which argued that it was essential that the Government and other bodies commit “to funding the core and extended baseline of strategic road and rail improvements identified by the Airports Commission for Heathrow and/or Gatwick to expand”.72

45.The Airports Commission concluded that, regardless of decisions on airport expansion, “many key road and rail links in the [South East] are expected to be close to capacity by 2030, even assuming the delivery of the Commission’s extended baseline”. It added that the scale of growth in background demand means that all three shortlisted schemes would impact on congestion on most routes and warned that Government will need to take decisive action to address long-term capacity issues arising from background demand growth, regardless of airport expansion. This may involve the provision of “new infrastructure, demand management, or a combination of the two”.73

46.There is currently a patchwork of plans to address long-term capacity issues around airports and to take account of the effects of background demand growth, in the South East. We recommend that, in its forthcoming draft National Policy Statement on airports, the Department set out its policy for addressing long-term airport capacity issues and the surface access implications of these. This policy should include measures for improving access to airports with existing spare capacity. We return to this later in our report.

47.We are concerned at the lack of coordination that is sometimes evident when infrastructure operators and local authorities plan renewal and enhancement works to the Strategic Road Network, the local road network adjacent to airports and the rail routes serving airports. The closures of the Gatwick and Heathrow Express services for engineering works over Christmas 2015—and the ensuing disruption to airline passengers—highlighted the importance of having a range of coordinated surface transport options in order to provide adequate resilience in the surface transport network. We recommend that the Department sets out, in its response to this Report, how it expects local authorities, Highways England and Network Rail to cooperate to keep the existing networks operating effectively and what steps it will take towards eliminating planned road and rail closures on the same route at the same time.

65 Network Rail (STA0070), para 2.2

66 Network Rail (STA0070), para 4.3

67 Network Rail (STA0070)

68 Q27 [Chris Chalk]

69 Q49 [Matthew Niblett]

70 Q119 [Matthew Niblett]

71Cabinet ‘falling behind’ on Heathrow expansion decision”, Evening Standard, 11 November 2015

72 Surrey County Council (STA0046)

73 Airports Commission, Airports Commission: Final Report, July 2015, paras 8.20, 8.25

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

Prepared 24 February 2016