Mayor warns economy will lose out if hub airport not taken seriously

16 October 2011

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has warned the Government that the UK risks being relegated to a bit part player in the global economy unless they give serious consideration to the construction of a new hub airport in the south east of England.

Figures calculated by the Department for Transport estimate that by 2030 all of London’s airports will be operating at full capacity. However that rapidly diminishing capacity is occurring at the same time as opportunities to provide links to the businesses and growing economies in the Far East and other areas are rapidly increasing.

That means in just twenty years time the only possible locations in the UK for airlines to meet demand for flights to those locations will be smaller regional airports. In his response to a Government study the Mayor is warning that those airports simply cannot provide the efficiencies that a hub airport offers airlines who operate to those long haul destinations.

In his submission to the Government the Mayor explains that the UK’s only true hub airport at Heathrow is already running at 99 per cent of its capacity, which makes it totally incapable of responding to the emergence of new business destinations in Asia and elsewhere. This lack of capacity means European competitors are already snapping up business and putting themselves in a position where they could threaten the capital’s position within the world’s global elite.

That is why the Mayor has once again urged the Government to develop a credible long-term aviation policy with a plan to protect London’s global reputation as an economic powerhouse, by planning to increase aviation capacity in the southeast and properly examining the options for a new hub airport in the region.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “This great country of ours risks becoming an aviation backwater unless we find a location to provide the extra runways that are so desperately needed. Without those runways we will lose business to our European competitors and we risk relegation from economic powerhouse to merely a bit part player in the global economy. We cannot go on as we are and I respectfully urge the Government to make it a priority to consider plans to build a full service, round the clock, multiple runway hub airport of the type that so many of our neighbours already boast.”

The aviation sector plays a vital role in the UK and London economy and employs hundreds of thousands of people, including 130,000 at London’s main airports alone. The UK depends on London in particular as its economic motor and that role is only possible because of the highly productive, export oriented and aviation intensive nature of the Capital’s economy. London’s continued success will greatly depend on the continuing presence of a competitive hub airport.

The UK is already facing tougher global competition for resources and markets and needs to rise to the challenge by forging new trading relationships in emerging economies such as China. While Heathrow performs well in serving established routes, such as those between London and major US cities, it is not responding to these new opportunities as well as rival Continental hub airports.

While Frankfurt, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam Schiphol offer approximately 17,500, 15,000 and 11,000 seats a week to mainland Chinese airports respectively, Heathrow only offers 9,000. These figures reflect the greater ease with which airlines based at these Continental hubs can offer new routes and capture lucrative new business than those based at Heathrow.

The consequence of this is that the UK’s competitors are stealing a lead in new markets. That is backed by figures showing that while there were 1m visitors from China to France in 2009, the UK only managed to attract 89,000 visitors from mainland China (and a further 143,000 from Hong Kong). The average spend of Chinese visitors to the UK was £1300. But if the UK attracted the same number of Chinese visitors as France an additional £1bn in tourist revenue could potentially be generated.

Daniel Moylan, the Deputy Chairman of Transport for London, is leading on aviation matters for the Mayor. He said: “Several ideas have been put forward to try and address our increasing lack of runway capacity. But I remain to be persuaded of there being any workable solution other than the creation of a new hub airport. And the obvious location for a 24 hour airport with the least possible impact on the local population is the Thames Estuary. A true ‘airport city’ of the type never seen before in the UK would provide the capacity we need and provide vital support to the UK economy.”

The Mayor’s submission to the Government argues that providing more capacity at Heathrow is not an option as the local environmental consequences of growth are too great there. Nor can a regional airport realistically be converted into a hub airport as their local transport networks simply could not offer the capacity or capability to accommodate the demand in London and the south east.

In the paper it is also noted that whatever the benefits of a UK high speed rail network, it does not offer the solution to the aviation capacity problem. No more than 10% or so of Heathrow’s passengers could be transferred onto such a system.  

The Mayor also believes that full account needs to be taken of aviation’s local environmental impacts in determining where new growth is provided. He continues to support proposals for including aviation in an effective international Emissions Trading Scheme, and his position is fully consistent with recommendations made by the Government’s Committee on Climate Change.

ENDS

NOTES TO EDITORS

An executive summary and full copy of the response to the Government is available at www.london.gov.uk or from the Mayor of London's Press Office on the numbers below.

The Government have embarked upon a two-year programme to set a new UK-wide aviation policy. The deadline for responses to the scoping document is October 20th 2011. The Mayor’s response comprises two documents: a publication summarising the Mayor’s position, and a main response, both of which are available at www.london.gov.uk

A consultation on a sustainable aviation framework is expected to be launched by the Government in March 2012.

The Mayor has asked the Deputy Chairman of TfL, Daniel Moylan, to prepare a series of reports on the links between London's position as the heartbeat of global business and the aviation capacity serving the capital.

A second report that examines the economic case for a hub airport is due for release later this year. Further reports are expected to consider environmental and financial issues as well as the business case for extra aviation capacity.

Heathrow is the UK’s only hub airport. Of its 67.8m passengers in 2009, 24.9m (37.9%) were transferring. Manchester, the UK’s largest regional airport, and the only UK airport with more than one commercial runway other than Heathrow, is not a hub airport. It handled 18.3m passengers in 2009 of whom 0.35m (1.9%) were transferring.

MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Information for the media is available from Jonathan Edwards or Jessica Roscoe in the Mayor’s Press Office on 020 7983 4337/4716 or 07825 781014 (contact details for media only – not for publication)

GENERAL PUBLIC/NON-MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Call the Public Liaison Unit at the Greater London Authority on 020 7983 4100
 
DUTY PRESS OFFICER: For out-of-hours media enquiries, please call 020 7983 4000