Mayor new evidence on why a four-runway hub airport is vital

04 July 2013

The Mayor of London has released new evidence that demonstrates in more detail than ever before why it is crucial that London and the UK are served by a large hub airport with at least four runways.

Today (4 July) the Mayor submitted his response to the Davies Commission’s discussion paper on Airport Operational Models. It makes the strongest argument yet that the hub operating model is the way of the future and presents compelling analysis of the destinations and route frequencies the UK will benefit from if we develop a single, large hub airport.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “We are looking here at definitive proof that London and the UK will benefit hugely from significant expansion of our hub airport capacity. To get the flights we need, it has to be four runways operating efficiently in one place rather than spread haphazardly across the south east. A four-runway airport will secure us the direct connections to the emerging markets around the world that will allow us to compete with our international rivals, who are busy building and growing their mega airports even as we speak.”

The detailed route-by-route analysis, compiled by well-respected aviation advisors, York Aviation, confirms that a four runway hub airport is the best option for connectivity, providing a much wider range and greater frequency of flights than if the same number of runways were spread across the south east. With access to developing markets vital to securing our economic position, a four runway hub airport will allow London’s airport system to reach more than twice the number of destinations in China and South America than equivalent dispersed expansion – a quadrupling of our connectivity to those regions today.

New routes that a four-runway hub airport could support include a new daily flight to Xi’an, which currently cannot be reached directly from the UK. A Chinese city of more than 7 million people, Xi’an is the centre of China’s thriving software and aerospace industries.

With UK Government figures valuing each flight to China at over £1 million in goods exports, this service alone could add more than £350 million of yearly goods exports to our trade with one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing economies. The UK also currently suffers from weak direct connections to Latin American economies rich in raw materials, with UK travellers forced to connect via European hubs on the continent.

Today 21 flights per week serve 2 Mexican destinations. With a four runway hub, connections could increase dramatically to 53 flights per week serving 5 destinations (with new routes to Monterrey, Guadalajara and Puebla). South American connections could increase from 3 to 13 destinations. These ten new destinations could include twice daily services to both Lima and Santiago de Chile – both of which are currently served by rival European hubs. Lima has around than 7000 factories and its skilled labour force is growing fast, it is also a regional cargo hub.

A four runway airport would also enable direct flights to be re-established to Fukuoka, with two flights a day. This major Japanese region is an important centre for the automotive industry, and is home to one of the world's largest manufacturers of industrial-use robotics.

It is also clear that Heathrow does not and cannot operate as this effective hub. It is severely constrained by runway capacity and lacks the space to offer the optimised, well-configured facilities that are needed. Its proximity to residential areas also leaves it unable to meet the need for extensive flying. Moreover, Heathrow’s highly constrained urban location – with the lack of sufficient available land and dire local noise impacts – means it could never conceivably be allowed to expand to satisfy the needs of an effective hub.

The Mayor’s aviation adviser, Daniel Moylan, said: “The need for a single, large hub airport is undeniable – without the transfer passengers it collects, it is not viable to lay on many of the direct routes to destinations that are so beneficial to our residents and businesses here in the UK. This new data further illuminates the need for that airport to have at least four runways and room to grow, because it is spare airport capacity that allows airlines to innovate and experiment with new routes to emerging markets. This is a description of a national asset that Heathrow, with its severe size constraints and dire noise impacts, can never become.”

-Ends-

Notes to editors

• The Davies Commission’s discussion paper on Airport Operational Models calls for responses by 11 July, and the Mayor’s response will be available at www.tfl.gov.uk/aviation or from the Mayor of London’s press office on the numbers below

• The research and evidence referenced in the submission was carried out independently by York Aviation on behalf of Transport for London

• The Davies Commission’s second discussion paper, “Aviation Connectivity and the Economy” acknowledges from BIS analysis of HMRC data that on average each flight to a BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) country is worth over £400,000 in goods exports and each flight to China is worth over £1 million in goods exports.

• BIS identifies Mexico as the world’s 14th largest economy but only the UK’s 41st market for goods exports, whilst Lima – the capital of Peru and 5th largest city in the Americas – is a major South American financial centre that is currently not directly reachable from the UK.

• The Mayor will submit his full response to the Davies Airports Commission later this month