Heathrow admit expanded airport may not improve regional connectivity

25 July 2014

Heathrow bosses have made the startling admission that even if the airport was to be expanded it would give no guarantee of improving regional connectivity.

 

Over the last 20 years the number of routes into Heathrow from domestic airports around the UK has fallen dramatically. As a result large parts of Britain are now without access to the UK’s main international airport and the links to massive overseas trade markets that it can provide.

 

As Heathrow launches a task force to develop proposals for improving regional access to an expanded site, the airport have themselves confessed that “expansion has the potential to support growth across the whole of the UK. But the challenge is to make sure that Heathrow can regain the air links to regions and nations that were lost as capacity constraints squeezed out domestic traffic."*

 

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, believes that only a new four-runway hub airport on the Isle of Grain can provide the country with the extra aviation capacity it desperately needs, while delivering new jobs, homes and long term competitiveness.

 

And a response to be submitted by the Mayor’s team to the Airports Commission’s Discussion Paper inquiry into regional connectivity today (Friday, July 25) will support a recent study by York Aviation and Oxford Economics, which said an estuary airport would provide 49 more daily regional flights than a third runway at Heathrow. This new connectivity would deliver a £2bn boost and over 17,500 jobs to key city regions across the UK, on top of the 388,000 jobs and £43bn additional GVA created by the airport itself.

 

This study has been prepared in conjunction with a series of events where the Mayor’s team has travelled across the UK and listened to the views of businesses, Government officials, and the airports. The overwhelming response has been an acknowledgement that hub airport connections are especially important across the country and that having regional routes forced out of Heathrow is harming their economies.

 

The analysis highlights how a third runway at Heathrow would fail to reverse the decline in regional connectivity and predicts that even with a third runway the number of domestic routes would be reduced by the loss of the existing Leeds/Bradford route. A third runway would fill up very quickly due to suppressed demand at Heathrow, which already runs at 99 per cent of its capacity. Pressure on airlines to use slots for the most profitable routes would then mean domestic services would be crowded out again, which would prohibit new routes being set up and mean that established services to cities like Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newcastle would not be immune to a further loss of frequency.

 

The Mayor of London’s chief advisor on aviation, Daniel Moylan, said: “Heathrow themselves have admitted that additional regional connectivity is not a foregone conclusion should the airport be expanded. It would be full as soon as it opened, meaning valuable domestic flights would continue to be muscled out by more lucrative transatlantic routes. Heathrow are telling cities across the UK that there are a number of possible ‘fixes’ which could safeguard third runway slots for flights to regional airports but the reality is that there is no legal or regulatory trick which can do this. Even a mechanism like the Public Service Obligation (PSO) is very restricted in its application – for example that no competing rail service exists.

 

“Only a new hub airport with spare capacity will create the conditions to improve connections between London and the rest of the UK and deliver an economic fillip for the entire country by giving us the right internal links to important new and emerging markets in areas such as Latin America and the Far East.”

 

With a new hub, seven cities and regions - Liverpool, Inverness, Newquay, Durham Tees Valley, Humberside, Dundee and Cardiff - would gain new air connections to the country’s hub airport, and a further seven cities and regions would see their existing connections improved.

Notes to editors