Surface transport to airports Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Passenger preference and modal shift

1.Airports with good public transport links see a greater proportion of passengers choosing to use trains, light rail, coaches and buses in preference to private cars to get to and from the airport. Not only can airports with good surface access make more of the opportunities they have to grow and contribute to the economy, but they can also play a part in achieving wider policy objectives such as reducing congestion and improving air quality. Government, local authorities and airports need to do more to encourage modal shift from private vehicles to public transport, particularly rail. Where rail is not appropriate, buses, coaches and other transport should be encouraged. Airports’ Master Plans and Airport Surface Access Strategies provide the Department with a useful policy lever but only if the Department undertakes better scrutiny of the plans and holds airports to account. The current system where airports set their own targets and assess their own performance is unlikely to deliver all of the Government’s objectives as the responsibility for delivering modal shift rests with airports. The Department can do more to support airports and relevant local authorities in making plans for modal shift and in ensuring that such plans take into account the needs of passengers, people employed at airports, freight operators and other users of airports. (Paragraph 30)

2.We recommend that the Department require airport operators to update any plans and surface access strategies that have not been updated in the last five years by the end of this year. There is too little scrutiny of individual strategies and plans which is akin to letting airports set and mark their homework themselves. We recommend that the Government consult on the institutional and governance arrangements needed to ensure airport operators are setting meaningful targets and being held to account for their performance. Any arrangement for greater scrutiny should provide the Department with an assurance that such targets and actions are aligned with the Department’s own policy objectives on modal shift. (Paragraph 31)

3.We welcome the Civil Aviation Authority’s review of the market structure for surface access, but urge the need for it to strike a careful balance between fairness to motorists and deterring any increase in the number of private vehicle journeys to airports that might be a result of a loosening of the penalty regime. The Government must also plan for the effects of any significant transfer from car to public transport as a result of demand management measures on cars. Integrated transport planning around airports will ensure that an appropriate balance between public transport and car is achieved. The Government should prioritise integrated transport planning for airport surface access for this reason. (Paragraph 32)

4.We and our predecessor committees have been calling on the Department for Transport to introduce smart ticketing to a nationally recognised standard for almost a decade. Delivery has been patchy. Oyster and contactless go from strength to strength across Greater London and we welcome Transport for London’s enthusiasm for rolling it out across all modes of transport and beyond the traditional London boundaries. We also support the work of other conurbations, particularly as part of their devolution deals, to extend urban smart ticketing to local airports. The Department has been slow to act, choosing to wait for other bodies and for the commercial sector to act; it should do more to lead. (Paragraph 39)

5.We recommend that the Department work with airport operators, airlines and others to devise a workable and affordable system for offering integrated ticketing across all public surface transport modes and airlines for inbound passengers to the UK. The Department must clarify how combined authorities, LEPs, regional transport bodies (including Transport for the North) and the National Infrastructure Commission will work together—and where the ultimate decision-making power lies—to integrate ticketing systems, especially in the North. As a first step the DfT should publish plans which show how it will improve signposting to, and information about, public surface transport options to and from UK airports. (Paragraph 39)

Planning for future demand

6.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. (Paragraph 46)

7.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. (Paragraph 47)

8.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. (Paragraph 47)

Planning surface access schemes

9.This Committee and its predecessors have pressed consecutive Governments to improve their integrated transport planning. We are persuaded that more integrated transport planning will deliver benefits, including modal shift, and we are concerned that the failure by successive governments to act on this means that the full benefits of some projects cannot be realised. It remains an issue of concern to us that having committed to spending £55 billion on the HS2 rail project—which we welcome—the Department has provided no evidence of how it plans to best leverage the new capacity generated by the project to deliver improvements to our key international gateways, particularly our airports. (Paragraph 72)

10.We recommend that the Government draw up plans showing how the HS2 network will link to regional airports so that the plans being drawn up by airports, local authorities and Network Rail can take this into account and individual projects can be prioritised accordingly. With reference to the Airports Commission report, we call on the Government to explain how it will address the reduction in domestic connectivity caused by a loss of domestic air slots at Heathrow and how it will develop the subsidised public service operator network set out in the Airport Commission’s report. (Paragraph 72)

11.Traffic to and from airports may be only a small component of the total traffic on the network and these routes may not get the attention from the network operators they need. The Government should require Network Rail and Highways England to demonstrate in their strategic business plans how they have considered airport surface access strategies, making clear which plans for improvements to surface access will be progressed and how they have consulted airport operators, LEPs and local authorities, on the relative priority that should be given to such schemes. (Paragraph 73)

12.The Department should set out more clearly its policy on, and expectations for, modal shift. We recommend that the Department develop a strategic plan for modal shift across the whole road network, with feeder routes to airports being a key part of that. This policy should underpin the development of national transport networks, as well as airport Master Plans and Airport Surface Access Strategies. We welcome the creation of the National Infrastructure Commission and recommend that it work with local organisations to optimise connectivity between regional transport hubs across the country. This will provide much needed national coherence on transport planning matters. (Paragraph 74)

Who pays?

13.The Department is understandably wary about falling foul of the state aid rules and successive Governments have held a settled view that where the primary beneficiary of a surface access improvement is the airport, the airport should pay. We recommend that this principle is retained and the Department should develop clear guidance as to how it and other public bodies (LEPs, councils, combined authorities etc.) should assess the benefit of new surface access schemes to (a) airports and (b) the wider community. We accept that there is a lack of clarity about the point at which any improvement can be said to be mainly for the benefit of the airport. We recommend that the Government clarify what constitutes a transport scheme that is primarily for the benefit of a private party, as opposed to providing a benefit secondary to a wider public interest, using real examples to illustrate where, in its view, the boundary sits. (Paragraph 88)

14.We accept the point made in the evidence we have received that suggests that any airport expansion and growth in passenger numbers could have a damaging effect on public transport networks in an area much wider than an airport’s immediate environs. In other policy areas developers can be required to pay towards relief measures under Section 106 agreements or the Community Infrastructure Levy. (Paragraph 89)

15.We recommend that the Government require any airport operator making a successful application to expand their airport to assess the effect of their plans on local transport networks, to work with infrastructure operators on the measures needed to provide relief for any damaging impact, and to make a contribution to the cost of such improvements. In cases where there is compelling evidence that airport expansion would act as a catalyst for significant local economic development, the Government should work in partnership with local authorities and airports to identify relevant surface access infrastructure improvements and help to develop a multi-party funding solution. (Paragraph 89)

16.We are encouraged by evidence from local authorities that speaks positively of the current and hopefully future benefits of devolution. We want to see areas taking advantage of new financial powers to prioritise and fund their own infrastructure projects without having to wait for the agreement of or money from the Department. We want to see local areas use these new powers to help their local airports grow and develop, in a sustainable way, to drive further economic growth. (Paragraph 96)

17.We seek guarantees from the Government that those areas that cannot reach agreement on a devolution deal, or do not want one, are not left behind. Some LEPS have been very effective at driving economic development in their areas. This momentum must not be lost. Where devolution deals have been put in place, we recommend that Government conduct a robust post-hoc evaluation to assess the benefits of devolution deals to local transport. (Paragraph 96)

18.In its response to this report, the Government must clarify the roles that Transport for the North and the National Infrastructure Commission will play in improving surface access to airports, and how they will work with combined authorities and LEPs to achieve this. If TfN is to play an effective role, the Government must provide it with adequate powers to ensure that integrated transport planning which benefits airport passengers and local commuters is not thwarted by a lack of cooperation from local areas. (Paragraph 97)

19.Improved infrastructure for smaller airports is dependent on local areas and the airports themselves having confidence in a long term strategic plan within which they can take decisions and identify their priorities. This includes a decision on future airport capacity in the South East. Unless the Government identifies priorities for growth—and funds them accordingly—its ambitions to ‘rebalance’ the national economy will be impeded. The five yearly planning cycle for Network Rail and Highways England was supposed to provide some long term security to local areas. It has failed to do so in some aspects of rail electrification. It is early days for the roads strategy but we will be keeping an eye on the key milestones and delivery timetable to make sure it does not slip. (Paragraph 102)

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Prepared 24 February 2016