Home Page Link Thaxted - under the present flightpath and threatened with quadrupled activity Takeley's 12th century parish church, close to proposed second runway Harcamlow Way, Bamber's Green - much of the long distance path and village would disappear under Runway 2 Clavering - typical of the Uttlesford villages threatened by urbanisation
Campaigning against proposals to expand Stansted Airport

image SSE NEWS ARCHIVE - April to June 2012


Will there be a third runway? An estuary airport? Regional expansion?
The debate between industry and environmentalists will be bitter,
but government indecision helps neither side

The Observer - 24 June 2012

Lord Adonis, Labour's short-lived transport secretary, admitted last week that he miscalculated in trying to push through a third runway at Heathrow. He took a gamble: he didn't think the Tories would "engage in a massive act of self-mutilation so far as the country was concerned". Had he not claimed it as a Labour project - had he punted it out to a review instead of letting it become an election issue - he believes they might be building it by now.

The coalition is certainly waiting and keeping mum, but few in aviation would credit them with the level of strategy Adonis wishes he'd deployed. The sound of 737s taking off has barely masked the angry rumblings of the last few months - BAA pointing to the growth of rival hubs on the continent while Heathrow creaks at the seams; or Willie Walsh, the International Airlines Group (IAG) boss, denouncing the coalition from here to Beijing; or the general anguish at air passenger duty. The benefits of aviation to the nation rarely get any credit, the industry claims.

Capping it off is the complaint that the government won't even say what its plans are. A long overdue policy framework is promised for summer, as it was in spring. Tomorrow, the biggest players in aviation will line up again to press for clarity, stressing the billions in GDP that air links underpin, and unveiling their own four tests of whether coalition policy will work. It isn't, officially, Heathrow drum-banging. But the loudest voices are BAA's and IAG's, and the debate as they frame it only points one way.

To the dismay of environmentalists, who thought they had laid the third runway to rest in 2010, its spectral claws are scrabbling at the surface - Nightmare in Hounslow, part two. Like all good sequels, a new monster has been thrown into the mix: a Thames estuary airport that would mean roads, railways and buildings across the wetland habitats of thousands of protected birds - and supposedly sink the west London economy by ensuring Heathrow's demise.

Why? Because the new orthodoxy - animating many Conservatives and alarming some, like Zac Goldsmith, who saw stopping expansion as more than just a vote-winner - is that extra capacity can't be simply spread around: Britain needs one, bigger, hub, connecting enough passengers to make more and more routes financially feasible.

While the third runway is still officially off limits, David Cameron's response to a recent Commons question was equivocal enough to be seized on by campaigners in both camps. Many believe transport secretary Justine Greening - as MP for Putney, implacably opposed to the third runway - is likely to walk (or, as she might put it, "re-mode") to another ministry in an autumn reshuffle.

Dissenting voices question the big-hub thinking: Gatwick, now free from BAA, believes expansion could come its way, while Birmingham airport is promoting an alternative vision of a network of UK bases "to share the economic gain and environmental pain". But they all want to know where they stand, so they can begin working towards whatever future the government will allow.

As Adonis points out, the benefits - as with high speed rail or other infrastructure investments - would accrue in the long term for the nation, while the grief would be local and immediate. Politicians must weigh up peaceful skies against a faltering economy. And the business opportunities BAA, Walsh and co see going begging may be real, but so are the environmental costs, however much new aircraft models cut the noise and CO2.

Cameron has executed a few U-turns; a 180-degree course change on aviation would be little surprise. As one industry insider puts it: they accept there will be constraints, but they can't plan until they know what the parameters are going to be. The four policy tests that aviation's coalition of the impatient will unveil tomorrow might as well be: do the Conservatives mean it; can they deliver it; will the other lot try to stop it; and will anything actually happen before our international competitors leave us stranded on the tarmac?


Birmingham Airport News Online - 25 June 2012

Birmingham Airport has today released a report that challenges orthodox opinion about aviation policy in the UK. The report, authored by Paul Kehoe, Birmingham Airport's chief executive, says that in order for the whole of Britain to capture the economic benefits of changes in global travel the Government must fully utilise existing airport infrastructure and pursue a balanced aviation strategy.

The report, Don't put all of your eggs in one basket: a challenge to aviation orthodoxy, argues that:
* Complicated hub-and-spoke demand management policies are failing to adapt to the challenges of aviation in the twenty-first century.
* Britain needs several airports capable of delivering point-to-point connectivity to emerging markets.
* A third runway at Heathrow will only meet 7% of additional passenger capacity needs by 2050; it is not a national aviation strategy.
* The six largest regional airports could add 116 million of passenger capacity to the network by 2050.

Commenting on the report Paul Kehoe, Chief Executive of Birmingham Airport said: "This report is my challenge to policy-makers to think beyond a single hub model that has become rigid aviation orthodoxy, and to consider alternative approaches that can deliver the airport capacity we need, today. The alternative approach that I am putting forward is a balanced aviation strategy that makes full use of Britain's existing airports and that will deliver benefits to the UK more efficiently, more quickly and at a lower cost than any other proposal on the table.

"We have a Government which is set on rebalancing the economy, and we have fantastic airports around the country with the spare capacity to deliver this growth. It is illogical that we are still trying to channel all traffic through the South East, which will only serve to reinforce the imbalance within the economy. At Birmingham Airport the number of passengers could double from nine million a year to eighteen million today. We have already started the construction of our runway extension and when completed, in 2014, this number will increase beyond thirty six million. Our runway extension will also allow us to fly to high-value new markets, including Brazil, China and India."

"This report challenges Government to draw a line under old-fashioned industry thinking. It is time to start recognising that there is more than one solution for UK aviation."

As part of the launch of the report, Birmingham Airport has laid out ten 'tests' for the Government to meet a balanced UK aviation policy:
1. Does it cater for the short-term, build towards the medium-term and lay the foundations for the UK's long-term capacity needs?
2. Does it provide airports in the South East with the flexibility to replace low value routes with new, high values services?
3. Does it provide the aviation industry with suitable headroom to ensure the access to the UK is resilient to changes in the weather, accidents and or terrorist activities?
4. Does it ensure that customers are able to fly direct to markets of their choice, from their nearest major airport?
5. Does it provide support for the Government's wider Growth Agenda by encouraging employment in areas that already suffer from acute economic depression?
6. Does it facilitate economic rebalancing within the UK by supporting the creation of direct connections between the UK's industrial capacity and customers in emerging markets?
7. Does it allow all parts of the UK to compete for foreign direct investment?
8. Does it provide incentives for airlines to create point-to-point services between UK cities and cities in emerging economies to create new, city pairs?
9. Does it balance the environmental impact of aviation growth for residents across the UK?
10. Does it support the integration of road, rail and air transport networks within the UK?

The report is the latest part of Birmingham Airport's political campaign that is due to run over the summer, during the Government's aviation consultation. Earlier in the month, Birmingham Airport released a series of hard-hitting adverts on tubes in London, online and in political magazines.

OUR COMMENT: Hopefully, nobody will expect that all these many criteria can be, or should be met! They cannot all be met - many, if implemented, would contradict others.

Pat Dale


Not for turning: Justine Greening says all the known problems
of a third runway at Heathrow are still in place

Joe Murphy - London Evening Standard - 25 June 2012

Transport Secretary Justine Greening has accused airline bosses of engaging in a "pub style" debate about airport expansion - and said the Victorians would be better at planning airports.

In a hard-hitting interview, the Putney MP criticised the "piecemeal" decisions that have led to Britain's aviation crisis. She said: "The Victorians-finished a railway in 1899 that we can still use today because they built in so much extra capacity. They constructed sewers under London that withstood a doubling of the size of the city, so that we are only now having to build the supersewer. By contrast in the aviation sector we have seen piecemeal decisions taken - and often not taken."

"I think the mistakes of the past have been characterised by piecemeal, ad hoc and often rushed decisions which ultimately have got us into a position today where there are really difficult decisions facing us."

In a discussion with the Evening Standard, the Transport Secretary bluntly told backers of a third runway at Heathrow that she will not be bounced into another "quick fix" when she launches a major review of aviation strategy this summer. Significantly, she pointed out that little is yet understood about Britain's long-term needs and the third runway proposed at Heathrow may in fact not be enough - and said Britain may end up needing a hub airport with four runways, not three.

"We've got to get beyond this kind of pub-style debate we have had, where people have really chased headlines, to a more informed debate that will get us to a much better answer than we have had in the past," she said.

Ms Greening's comments come after pressure has mounted on the Conservatives to abandon their opposition to a third runway. Two weeks ago in the Commons, Prime Minister David Cameron pointedly refused to rule out a change of heart after 2015. But Ms Greening, a long-standing opponent of such plans, made clear she is not for turning.

She denied that the urgent worry about economic growth had softened attitudes to a third runway. "I don't think the mood has particularly changed," she said. Asked if she would resign if the Conservatives changed policy, Ms Greening did not give a direct answer. She said: "I don't think any of the facts have changed in relation to the arguments for or against a third runway. The impact on people, on congestion, on air pollution are all still there."

To critics such as Willie Walsh, whose company IAG owns British Airways and has warned about the shortage of Heathrow slots to the fast-growing Bric economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China) she said the industry could free up more slots itself if it chose. "Key companies like BA are the ones who actually decide where the slots go every day," she pointed out. "At the moment Heathrow has 41 slots to North America and just 14 in total to the Brics if you exclude Hong Kong."

The Transport Secretary accused Colin Matthews, chief executive of Heathrow operator BAA, of failing to spell out longer-term needs. "Obviously Colin Matthews will want to press for a third runway, but my job is to look beyond Colin's perspective of the next 10 or 15 years. My job is to say 'what do we need for the next 20, 30, 40 or 50 years?' What if we realise we need a fourth runway? Where would that go at Heathrow?"

She insisted that Londoners, like her own constituents, who live under the Heathrow flightpath, will get their say: "Their voice in many respects has not been listened to quite so much."

Crucially, she insisted that "cross-party consensus is very important", referring to the fact that Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives are all currently against Heathrow expansion. Ms Greening refused to be drawn on rival schemes, including proposals for extra runways at Gatwick or Stansted, plus Boris Johnson's plan for a four-runway hub in the Thames Estuary. Her mantra, however, is the need to think long-term. In the Eighties, people failed to foresee the advent of mass air travel and low-cost carriers so they ducked difficult decisions, she said. "I'm determined that we don't fall into that trap again."

Does she think a four-runway hub is necessary? She again questioned Heathrow's suitability, saying a "third short runway" might turn out to be "a constraining scenario", adding: "We can't have people come up with solutions if they are not prepared to say how those solutions would adapt if we need more capacity than we currently think."

"This is not a consultation about a third runway. It is something far more fundamental about what our aviation needs are for the UK." She added: "The Victorians planned ahead - now we should plan ahead for the aviation sector."


BUSINESS leaders in Suffolk have welcomed the re-igniting of
the debate about a second runway for London Stansted airport

EADT Online - 25 June 2012

The Suffolk Chamber of Commerce was a vocal supporter of the airport's plan to build a second runway which were scrapped in 2010 after a lack of political support. It argues airport growth is a 'fundamental driver' of the East of England economy.

London Mayor Boris Johnson re-fuelled the debate by arguing Stansted is the right place for airport growth in the UK, leading to calls for the Government to change its aviation policy.

"There is no doubt that London Stansted is a key economic driver of the regional economy." said Suffolk Chamber chief executive John Dugmore. "It has a £240million a year turnover and is the biggest single site employer in our region. With over 350 of those staff based in Suffolk our members tell us on a regular basis the importance of business backing the airport and its plans for the future."

The aiport, which employs around 12,000 people is the gateway to the East of the England and one in five of its passengers use it for business trips. "There is a real danger of Britain falling behind its international rivals when it comes to generating links to emerging markets," Mr Dugmore said.

"Stansted has plenty of spare capacity and can grow from its current 18 million passengers a year to 35 million on its existing runway. Airlines could relocate from Heathrow to Stansted tomorrow and save millions of pounds in the process."

Last month, members of Suffolk Chamber met with Stansted boss Nick Barton in Ipswich. He told them around the world, other airports are expanding and leaving the UK behind. "There is no doubt the debate around Stansted will continue as the Government moves towards a review of its policy," Mr Dugmore said.

OUR COMMENT: Why a second runway?

Pat Dale


LONDON Mayor Boris Johnson has voiced his support for a second runway at Stansted Airport - saying it would provide a short term solution to the air capacity crisis in the south east of England

Dunmow Broadcast - 20 June 2012

Mr Johnson, the most senior figure to throw his weight behind expanding the Uttlesford transport hub, believes a second runway would provide a short term solution to the air capacity crisis in the south east of England. However, he still maintains that the south east needs a new airport in the long term.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, the Conservative politician said expanding Stansted would be "a fantastic step in the right direction" ahead of building a new hub in the Thames Estuary - his favoured approach. "It would be a good interim solution," he said. "A lot of money is now moving on to Stansted and the possibility of a high-speed rail link up there. You could be just as fast, if not faster, than at Heathrow. If we built another runway at Stansted and put in a high-speed line that would be a fantastic step in the right direction," he added. "And then [we can] look at another hub. All options must be looked at."

But Sir Alan hit back, saying the idea did not make sense because Mr Johnson had been campaigning for a new hub airport, dubbed 'Boris Island', for several years now. "This new claim is ludicrous as it is simply not what we need for a sustainable aviation future," he said.

"We need a new hub airport with four runways which is built for the future rather than adding a new burden on to our existing infrastructure. This idea of a high-speed connection getting passengers into London from Stansted in 15 minutes is impossible to imagine and is absurd. Boris must stick to his original plan for a new hub airport rather than looking elsewhere for a short term solution which is not viable."

And Carol Barbone, campaign director of Stop Stansted Expansion, reinforced the group's stance that a second runway was not required because the demand did not support it. She said: "Stansted is only operating at half its permitted capacity as it is. If the market was interested in using Stansted we would be seeing increasing passenger numbers rather than a month-on-month decline for the past five years. Boris is clutching at straws given the opposition to the Thames Estuary airport."

A spokesman for airport operator BAA said: "Building a new runway at Stansted will not solve the UK's hub airport capacity crisis. All a second runway at Stansted would achieve would be to increase the amount of spare capacity there."

Prime Minister David Cameron last week said MPs should not be "blind" to the need to expand airport capacity.


With MPS under pressure again to reconsider
the expansion of Heathrow, objectors must stay resolute

Simon Jenkins - Evening Standard - 26 June 2012

What is wrong is for policy to veer this way and that in response to the pressure of special interests waving the flag and claiming to be what they are not. IT WON'T lie down. Like some ancient vampire, the "third runway at Heathrow" is the living dead. Born of greed and sucking lobbying cash into its veins, its coffin is hammered shut time and again. Yet come the fall of dusk over west London, with much creaking and howling, it slinks back on stage.

Reach for the skies: residents living near Heathrow face the prospect of even more aircraft noise

Governments have promised no expansion at Heathrow for half a century. In the Sixties, they admitted it was an airport in the wrong place and told local residents there would be no expansion "for all time". The same pledge was repeated after Terminal 4 was built in 1978, again after Terminal 5, and when the Labour transport minister, Ruth Kelly, reneged and promised "just a mini-runway" in 2006. Ministers lied, all of them. They swore on their mothers' graves, and then lied.

Before the 2010 election David Cameron and Nick Clegg could not have been clearer. There would be no third runway at Heathrow. In this day and age in a civilised country, you could not seriously propose to fly ever bigger and noisier jets over heavily populated areas. It was a promise. Read my lips.

The money refused to admit defeat. The money, in the form of BAA and British Airways as it then was, knew that a Heathrow promise was not worth a bucket of spit. They would not give up until the last aviation civil servant was lying dead of lunch overdose in the Whitehall gutter. Lord Adonis, Colin Matthews of BAA and Willie Walsh of BA/IAG cared not a jot for the pledges that elected politicians give. They have cash-thirsty companies to run.

Since Heathrow is my nearest airport I suppose I must declare an interest in a third runway. Since the runway would send planes distantly over my home I have a conflicting interest. But there are surely more important interests. One is in the coherent planning of London's infrastructure, striking a balance between commerce and the environment. Another is that government should take decisions quickly, honestly and fairly and, once taken, keep them.

One issue can be dismissed at once. BAA and BA have been wrapping themselves in the flag of "growth" and "UK plc" for years, as if Heathrow had anything to do with some wider public interest. It does not. British aviation is chiefly about shifting millions of leisure travellers, mostly British tourists going overseas. Aviators hate to think of themselves as part of the tourism business, preferring to see themselves in flashy uniforms and associating with financiers and politicians on upgrades. A mere 13 per cent of British airport passengers are in any sense "business", and that embraces company junkets, conferences and trips on expenses.

The industry may present Heathrow as the throbbing hub, the nerve centre, of the nation's economy but only 30 per cent of its passengers are in any sense "business", which is why it is designed like a supermarket. Gatwick and Stansted are barely 15 per cent business travellers. This whole enterprise is dedicated to inducing Britons to holiday abroad. The UK's deficit on foreign tourism is £15 billion a year. This is hardly in the national interest. Indeed, if BAA really cared about Chinese and Arab tycoons using Heathrow "as a hub" it would not devote precious slots to Malaga and Orlando.

Why then did George Osborne last autumn promise to "explore all options on maintaining the UK's aviation hub status"? Why did he repeat in his Budget, "we cannot cut ourselves off from the fastest-growing cities in the world"? Why did this follow David Cameron's pledge that he was "not blind to the need to increase airport capacity" since Britain should not be "just a feeder route to bigger airports in Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Dubai". The answer is that these phrases come straight from the handouts of political lobbyists for the airline companies.

There is much, so we often read, that could be done to increase Heathrow's throughput for business travellers. Tourist destinations could shift elsewhere: it is absurd to have holidaymakers having to travel south and east to London to fly elsewhere in Europe. There is already a third runway near Heathrow, the Government's private and VIP airport at Northolt. If Cameron is really short of "vital capacity" Northolt stands waiting. Runways could go over to "dual-use", for landing and take-off, now being considered a quarter century after being first proposed.

If more capacity really is one day needed in the London area, there is no way it can ever be over the rooftops of west London. Gatwick and Stansted are in precious countryside which, as at Heathrow, ministers once pledged to leave alone. It can hardly be more precious than the ears of millions. But no hindrance other than financial lies in the way of the much-vaunted Thames estuary site. In the long-distance future it must make sense to exile these vast developments as far from human habitation as possible.

What is wrong is for policy to veer this way and that in response to the pressure of special interests waving the flag and claiming to be what they are not. For the time being Downing Street is being led by the nose by lobbyists. That is why campaigners against the runway must sustain their counter vailing pressure. This runway will not vanish until buried at a crossroads on the A4, with garlic in its mouth and a stake through its heart. And possibly not even then.


Willie Walsh said he is 'not going to waste any time
on a consultation that is meaningless'

Philip Pank, Transport Correspondent - The Times - 25 June 2012

Willie Walsh, the boss of British Airways and Iberia, has threatened to boycott a government review of aviation policy if it excludes Heathrow expansion from the outset.

Ministers will this summer publish a draft aviation policy for consultation and will issue a call for evidence on the best way of maintaining a hub airport in Britain. But the Coalition insists that it will not revisit its decision to overturn plans for a third runway at the West London airport.

Mr Walsh said that he would not engage with the consultation process if the policy documents, expected within weeks, fail to consider all options for maintaining Britain's status as an international air transport hub. "I am not going to waste any time on a consultation that is meaningless," he said.

Mr Walsh, Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA which owns Heathrow, Steve Ridgway, the boss of Virgin Atlantic, Brendan Barber, the head of the TUC and other business leaders published four tests by which they think the draft policy should be measured. The key would be that all options - including Heathrow expansion - are considered "rationally and objectively on their merits", so that narrow electoral concerns in West London do not dictate national policy. The review should make a clear conclusion that can be enacted without delay. It should aim at cross-party consensus so that any decisions on building new runways can survive a change of government. And it should win cross-departmental support.

Mr Walsh used a footballing analogy to say that politicians would have to decide if they are happy for the country to be a quarter-finals nation, following England's exit from Euro 2012. "We will be playing in the lower divisions very soon if we are not careful," he said.

Mr Matthews added: "The current aviation policy review is the last chance for Britain's political leaders to work together in the national interest and prevent the UK slipping out of the premier league of global connectivity. It is time for narrow political interest to be put to one side and for our political leaders to grasp the nettle and work together for the good of the UK as a whole."

The Heathrow boss said that alternatives to building a third runway such as allowing both runways to be used simultaneously for take-offs or landings, which would increase the airport's capacity by about 15 per cent, would not provide a lasting solution.

Mr Matthews told The Times that the capacity issues could be addressed by closing Heathrow and building a new hub airport at Stansted - which is also owned by BAA - or in the Thames Estuary, solutions which are both being evaluated by his company. "That does not mean to say that we support any option," he said. Under plans approved by the previous government, BAA was to build a third runway at Heathrow for £8 billion. Lord Foster of Thamesbank, the architect who has published a blueprint for a four-runway hub on reclaimed land on the North Kent marshes, says it would cost £20 billion to build a new airport.

Mr Walsh said it was "inevitable" that the consultation would consider expanding Gatwick airport, but he noted that the approach had not worked for British Airways which tried to run a "dual hub" in the 1990s. Mr Ridgway said that the best option appeared to be expanding Heathrow, which is running at 99 per cent capacity. "It is the most likely option but it needs to be proven to everybody [so] let's prove it once and for all."


Joe Murphy, Political Editor - London Evening Standard - 26 June 2012

BUSINESS leaders today admitted a third runway at Heathrow is a "stopgap" that will fail to meet London's long-term demand for air travel. However, they insisted it should go ahead anyway because the immediate crisis in aviation capacity for the South East is so severe. They spoke out after Transport Secretary Justine Greening warned that Heathrow will soon run out of capacity even if the third runway is built.

Corin Taylor, senior economic adviser at the Institute of Directors, said: "She is wrong to rule out a third runway as a short-term way to meet demand and keep us in the race with our international competitors. A new hub airport would take time to build, so a stopgap of some sort is necessary. Whether the third runway is the solution or not, it should be considered fairly." Baroness Valentine, chief executive of business group London First, said firms were already losing orders because of lack of air links with the boom economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. Government was right to plan for aviation?s long-term future, she said, but must also "address the short and medium term need so business can reach new and growing markets and help kickstart the growth we need. That might be through a third runway at Heathrow and an additional runway at Gatwick or Stansted, or some other means. This is an issue critical to the UK economy."

An aviation strategy review this summer will consider whether the main hub airport should be Heathrow, another location, or a combination of airports. Ms Greening asked how Heathrow could expand enough to meet aviation needs in 50 years. She criticised a "pub-style debate" and told the Standard: "My job is to say, 'What do we need for the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years? What if we need a fourth runway? Where would that go at Heathrow?'"

John Stewart, chairman of anti-expansion pressure group Hacan, welcomed the minister's statement and called on industry to back up its demands with concrete data. He believed there was no "new evidence to make the business case for a new runway". "The challenge to business groups is to come up with hard evidence to support their case," he said.


ENDS Europe DAILY - 29 June 2012

Airlines representatives have warned the EU against mandating the use of biofuels, telling a European Commission workshop last week that this would harm European carriers' competitiveness.

However, they are keen to see more member states count aviation biofuels towards their wider renewable energy directive (RED) targets for 2020 and create domestic incentives. At the moment, only the Netherlands includes aviation in its RED target.

The commission is currently focusing on the voluntary flightpath programme for aviation biofuels, and encouraging research and development. But although it has no immediate plans for a biofuels mandate, the prospect is being taken seriously by the industry.

EU airlines' point-to-point models would force them to use more biofuel than non-EU airlines which favour hub-and-spoke networks with shorter flight paths, according to Lufthansa's senior biofuels manager Alexander Zschocke. This distortion will remain until around 2030, when biofuels should become fully competitive, he said.

Jonathon Counsell, British Airway's head of environment told ENDS that support for aviation biofuels was especially important because aircraft will rely on liquid fuels long after road transport electrifies. He would like the RED revised to create an extra EU-wide incentive for its uptake.

OUR COMMENT: While extensive electrification of road transport is desirable if climate change is to be reduced, there is no reason to allow the aviation industry licence to "take up" the carbon savings and use ever more fuel in order to expand. Biofuels emit carbon too, and the carbon equation that justifies their use is very dodgy when such large supplies are considered quite apart from the unanswered question - where will it all come from? Agricultural land is needed for food.

Pat Dale


ENDS Europe DAILY - 7 June 2012

The European Commission is considering setting EU noise limits to create a level-playing field in Europe, according to a report on the implementation of the 2002 environmental noise directive published last week.

But mandatory EU limits might go against the subsidiarity principle, says the commission. The directive introduces indicators for reporting exposure to noise but does not set any binding limits. Member states are free to adopt such limits if they want to. One option could be to propose minimum thresholds, or 'trigger values', above which action would be required. Member states would still be free to set stricter requirements. Brussels is also considering possible penalties. Even in cases where binding limits are in place, noise levels are often exceeded with complete impunity, it notes.

Other actions envisaged by the EU executive include possible requirements regarding low-noise road surfaces. It also plans to revise existing requirements for outdoor equipment and tighter noise standards for vehicles, a plan announced last week. The commission also wants to take several measures to improve the law's implementation. This includes streamlining reporting requirements to reduce administrative burden and harmonised methods for assessing noise exposure.

Such harmonisation was recommended by an Irish study last year. In its report, the commission said the CNOSSOS-EU project would provide the technical basis for adopting an EU implementing measure on noise mapping methods. Comparing data on noise exposure is proving difficult because of differences in data collection, quality and availability, leading to "a variability of results across member states", according to the report. A common method will address this issue.

The report also highlights the directive's achievements, such as the introduction of a noise management system in all member sates. However, it points out implementation has only recently started regarding noise mapping, which will help identify hot spots.

Green group EEB welcomed the report's admission that there are flaws in the directive such as a lack of data harmonisation. But the group says it wants a clearer timetable for when the commission will tackle the shortcomings identified in the report.


David Cameron put the possibility of building a third runway at Heathrow back on the Tory agenda yesterday as the Government prepares to set out
its plans for boosting airport capacity in the south-east of England

Nigel Morris - The Independent - 14 June 2012

The Conservatives opposed the construction of another runway at the UK's busiest airport in their last manifesto - not least because of the number of marginal seats in south-west London. The Coalition Agreement also rules out the prospect of a U-turn on the subject during this Parliament.

However, Tory sources confirmed last night that the argument over the merits of a third runway was a "live issue" for the party as it considered transport policies after 2015. More immediately the Government is expected to raise the prospect of expanding Heathrow in a white paper due in the next month on aviation policy.

In the Commons yesterday, Mr Cameron said the Government "must not be blind" to the need to increase the number of flights that airports can handle. But the Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, whose Putney constituency is beneath Heathrow's flight-path, is a vehement opponent of the airport's expansion.

Mr Cameron was tackled in the Commons yesterday on the subject by the Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, whose Richmond Park constituency is also close to Heathrow. The Prime Minister replied: "Clearly we must not be blind to two important considerations. One is how we expand airport capacity overall, but secondly how do we make sure that Heathrow operates better."

Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, also only ruled out expansion of Heathrow until 2015. He said: "I am pretty clear - there is not any chance of us reopening the third runway within this parliament."

Joss Garman, a campaigner at Greenpeace, said Mr Cameron's "refusal to give unequivocal line" on Heathrow could lead to the "mother of all U-turns".

Meanwhile, Conservative sources denied a report that the Government was cooling over its commitment to build a high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham.


Concerns have been raised in the House of Lords that reforms to the way airport charges are levied at Heathrow Airport could put BAA's ability to secure private funding at risk

Oliver Clark - airport-world.com - 15 June 2012

Speaking during the first Lords reading of the draft Civil Aviation Bill, Conservative Lord Jenkin of Roding said the bill?s wording made it unclear whether airlines can appeal against certain airport charges that are to be ring fenced for funding capital projects.

While he said he was in favour of a new licence-appeal regime to replace the periodic price review of airport charges by the Competition Commission, Lord Jenkin said BAA must be given an exemption from any right of appeal by airlines to avoid putting investor confidence in BAA in jeopardy.

"What it has concerns with are specific aspects of the ring-fence, which the Government's policy states could be derogated from in practice and would now be subject to appeal, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, said, perhaps by airlines or by the CAA itself," he said.

"BAA is having to raise very large sums of money on the markets. Any uncertainty of that kind would immediately imperil its fundraising operations."

His comments echoed those made by BAA, which said minor amendments to the bill would help to clarify these legal points without diminishing the main thrust of the reforms.

The bill will now go to its second reading and committee stage in the Lords and is expected to become law later this year. BAA declined to comment further on the matter.

OUR COMMENT: More special Help for the aviation industry? And, why has the section on Environmental responsibility been dropped from the Bill?

Pat Dale


A series of Tory MPs lined up today to back David Cameron
for opening the door to a third runway at Heathrow

Nicholas Cecil - airport-world.com - 14 June 2012

The Prime Minister yesterday refused to rule out reconsidering expanding the airport after the next election in 2015. Environmentalists and other opponents of a third runway warned of widespread protests if the Tories ditched their opposition, which is part of the Coalition agreement.

But a growing number of backbench Conservative MPs are said to believe a bigger Heathrow is needed to boost Britain's links to China and other emerging markets. Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford-on-Avon, said: "I'm in favour of expanding Heathrow immediately. If we want to be a global hub for business, if we want to be able to really go for growth and rebalance the economy towards emerging and growing markets, the most important thing is an airport hub."

Priti Patel, MP for Witham, Essex, added: "The Government should look at the viability of a future third runway at Heathrow. From a UK Plc point of view, there is a strong case." Former armed forces minister Nicholas Soames also welcomed the Prime Minister's words. He believes expanding Heathrow is a "national priority".

Housing minister Grant Shapps and international aid minister Alan Duncan are also understood to support re-examining the case for another runway. The double-dip recession appears to be changing the minds of some Londoners to expanding Britain's airport capacity, including possibly at Heathrow. "There are very considerable concerns among many of my constituents about a third runway but there are also people asking the question about where our new airport capacity will come from," said Battersea Conservative MP Jane Ellison who wants serious consideration of a "Boris Island" airport in the Thames Estuary.

Zac Goldsmith, who has threatened to resign as Tory MP for Richmond Park and North Kingston if the party does a U-turn on Heathrow, yesterday urged Mr Cameron to guarantee there would be no third runway for "as long as he is the Prime Minister". Mr Cameron declined to give this commitment, instead repeating the position in the Coalition agreement of no Heathrow expansion until 2015. He said MPs should not be "blind" to the need to expand airport capacity.

But he would face a backlash from other Conservative MPs, particularly in west London, if he ditched the party's opposition to a third runway.

Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat MP for Twickenham, has pushed the idea of expanding Birmingham airport. Mark Garnier, the Tory MP for Wyre Forest in the Midlands, backed the Business Secretary and called for the creation of a new hub there.


Tom Mcghie - thisismoney,go.uk - 2 June 2012

Heathrow operator BAA is threatening to sue the Government if it continues to rule out considering a third runway as an option to expand airport capacity in Britain. BAA believes that a point-blank refusal by the Government to look into building a new runway would be a breach of 'proper process', say company sources.

The firm has consulted lawyers and believes it has a good case to get the Government to consider the expansion. It believes there is a precedent for the Government to change its mind as two councils successfully mounted a judicial review in 2002 against Labour's refusal to consider the case for expanding Gatwick airport.

David Cameron and Transport Secretary Justine Greening are insisting that all options - a new island airport in the Thames estuary and extra runways at Stansted and Gatwick - are legitimate subjects for discussion, but a third runway at Heathrow has been ruled out. Downing Street insists that the objection to the Heathrow runway was part of the Coalition agreement.

Greening, whose Putney seat in south-west London is under the flight path, said a third runway would involve 'unacceptable environmental policies'.

A policy document on a hub airport was due in spring, but was postponed until the early summer. However, it is not now expected to be published until the autumn. Evidence suggests Heathrow is so overcrowded that major international airlines prefer to use Charles de Gaulle in Paris, Frankfurt Airport and Amsterdam?s Schiphol.

There is growing pressure from airline chiefs, business leaders and influential voices within the Conservative party for the Government to change its mind.

Expanding airport capacity in Britain is regarded as a crucial step to boosting the economy and keeping the country attractive for business, industry and tourism. A report from the European Commission on the British economy, published last week, highlighted the lack of airport capacity in the South-East as a possible obstacle to recovery, although it made no suggestions about the best solution.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways and Spanish carrier Iberia, has refused to take part in any policy discussions while the Government continues its ban on any discussion of a third runway at Heathrow. Chancellor George Osborne believes a £50billion Thames estuary airport would be far too expensive.


Aviation industry chiefs arriving for their annual conference
had only to look at the host airport to see how Britain is falling short

David Millward, Beijing - Daily Telegraph - 16 June 2012

The contrast between the breakneck speed at which Beijing airport has grown and the glacial expansion of Heathrow could not be more stark. Heathrow's showpiece new terminal, which was supposed to be ready for the Olympics, is two years late and the prospect of the airport getting the third runway is further away than ever. Beijing, on the other hand, now boasts a three-runway airport which is already the busiest in Asia.

Within months, work is expected to start on a nine-runway behemoth at Daxing, 35 miles south of Tiananmen Square. In all, another 70 airports are due to be built in the next three years as the country makes sure it can keep up with the rapidly rising demand for air travel.

Admittedly, the government does not face the same democratic constraints as Britain, which makes the job of building infrastructure a tad less tricky. Nevertheless, China's startling progress was hardly lost on the aviation industry's head honchos as they gathered for their annual summit in Beijing. They could hardly miss it as they swept through the huge Terminal 3, the architects of which included Lord Foster, who is bidding to build a new monster airport on the Thames Estuary.

At more than 10 million square feet, the scale of the Beijing terminal is impressive to the point of intimidation. It is bigger than Heathrow's five terminals put together. When The Sunday Telegraph passed through, clearing immigration took two minutes, rather than the two hours sometimes experienced by foreign arrivals at Heathrow.

For many, the spectacular growth of Beijing, which mirrors that of the Chinese economy, is an indictment of the UK government's aviation policy or, as some would argue, lack of one.

When the Coalition took office, one of its first acts was to ditch Labour's plans for a third runway at Heathrow. Since then, Frankfurt has opened a fourth runway and Berlin's new airport is months away from entering service. Critics fear ditching the third runway could prove a costly mistake. The feeling among airline executives in Beijing was that carriers could move some routes to better connected airports with more runways and destinations.

"It's like shifting a head office," said Calin Rovinescu, Air Canada's chief executive. "Once the head office is shifted it never comes back. In China, when you see the speed at which economic decisions are made, you have to put into the debate whether the UK Government is moving fast enough."

In Britain, the picture is confusing to say the least. Work is continuing on Crossrail, a £14.8 billion scheme that will link Canary Wharf and the City to Heathrow. But with question marks over Heathrow's future as a hub airport, Crossrail is in danger of becoming a very expensive railway line to a regional airport.

Fears over the long term future of Heathrow have been heightened by whispers coming out of Whitehall that the solution to the surge in passenger numbers, which are predicted to rise from 211 million in 2010 to 335 million in 2030, is to start again and build a new airport in the Thames Estuary. More recently, George Osborne and David Cameron have been reported as willing to consider Heathrow again. It is all very confusing.

At present, the Government is bowing to the wishes of environmental campaigners and those living under the flight path, who are less than enthusiastic about the prospects of more than 200,000 extra flights a year.

Those under the flight path include the Putney constituents of Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, whose opposition to a third runway predates her becoming a Coalition minister. Despite this, the Government still says it wants to consult the industry over how best to serve the country's aviation needs. The stance baffles Lord Adonis, Labour's last transport secretary. "They are having a consultation which is ruling out what the industry regards as the only viable option," he said.

Having produced what it described as a "scoping document" last year, the Coalition will unveil a "long term draft strategy document" this summer. At the same time it will issue a "call for evidence" on whether Britain should maintain its hub status, and how it can be done. This, in turn, will trigger a formal strategy next spring, which will go out for consultation.

The aviation industry has been unimpressed by this blizzard of documents. Tim Clark, Emirates' chief executive, sympathises with the need to get the decision right, but warns that the procrastination cannot go on for ever. "It's such a political football and everyone puts it off until the next Parliament, so nothing gets done," he said. Michael O'Leary, the chief executive of Ryanair, regards the Government's aviation policy as a "joke" and believes the reluctance to grasp the nettle is costing Britain dear in terms of jobs.

Critics cite the decision of Comac, Ryanair's Chinese aircraft manufacturer, to site its European headquarters in Paris, rather than in London. Charles de Gaulle has four runways offering direct flights to 232 cities, compared with 163 from Heathrow. Business leaders have warned that Heathrow could become little more than a branch line on the global aviation map. Dubai is already poised to overtake Heathrow as the world's busiest international airport by 2016. Further expansion will enable it to handle 90 million passengers a year, 20 million more than Heathrow.

The consensus among senior aviation figures in Beijing was that expanding Heathrow is the only option. "If Heathrow wants to stay the vibrant and important world hub it has been in the past, you will need to put capacity there," said John Slosar, the chief executive of Cathay Pacific. Malaysia Airlines copes with the lack of slots at Heathrow by using its mammoth Airbus A380 to ferry passengers to and from the Far East. "We see London as important for historical reasons [and] it is better to invest in Heathrow," said Hugh Dunleavy, the carrier's commercial director. "People may not like another runway, but when they bought their house, didn't they notice there was an airport there?"

Like many, he is sceptical at suggestions the Government can start again with an airport in the Thames Estuary. It would have to persuade carriers to buy into the idea, and few seem keen on upping sticks, which raises questions about whether "Boris Island" is a starter. Picking his words carefully, Mr Dunleavy adds. "For airports to be successful, they need a large number of airlines operating there."

Heathrow does have a lot of goodwill. Fernando Pinto, the chief executive of the Portuguese carrier, TAP, speaks proudly of Britain's historic links with his country. But he scarcely disguises his frustration at the headaches he faces operating from Heathrow. His planes, like many others, are often forced to go on a magical mystery tour of South East airspace until a landing slot can be found. "It takes a lot of time and it burns a lot of fuel and that is causing us problems," he said. He is also frustrated at the delay in rebuilding Terminal 2, which meant improving links with other Star Alliance members had to be put on hold.

These things matter. As China powers ahead, Britain is still waiting for a solution.


Part of a briefing from AirportWatch - June 2012

There has been intense lobbying recently from the aviation industry and many of its allies in business in favour of significant airport expansion.

Huge figures have been bandied around about the loss to the economy if expansion does not take place. Most of these figures are speculative and are seen as such by the Government. The Government remains unconvinced this level of expansion is required. In its forthcoming consultation on its draft aviation policy, it will ask supporters of expansion to prove their case with evidence-based submissions.

Is the UK economy losing out because of poor air connectivity to the rest of the world?

Fact: London remains the top city in the world to do business. A principle reason for this is its excellent connectivity. That's according to global property consultants Cushman & Wakefield. Further reading

Fact: Heathrow has more flights each week to key business centres of the world than its two closest European rivals, Paris & Frankfurt, put together. Further reading

Fact: A big majority of the top companies expect to reduce their flying over the next few decades and use video conferencing more. Further reading

The key consideration for the future is whether London and the South East can retain its premier position. This requires the sort of in-depth research the Government is calling for.

It certainly needs more than anecdotal evidence that some Chinese firms are locating to other European cities because they prefer their air connections.

The research should include consideration of how future oil prices, income levels and climate change targets will impact on the demand for air travel. It cannot assume that the growth over the next few decades will follow the expansion of previous years.

Nor can it assume that aviation will continue to get the tax-breaks it currently enjoys. The research needs to take account of the growth of hub airports in the Middle East - places like Dubai - and in fast-industrializing countries such as China.

It may be that it is more important that the UK, especially London, is well-connected to these new hubs rather than having flights to smaller cities in these countries.

This sort of in-depth work is required before an accurate assessment can be made about future demand, capacity and connectivity. Despite all the reports the aviation industry has produced it has not been done. The Government is right to ask for it.

For further facts consult www.airportwatch.org.uk


Andrew Parker - Financial Times - 8 June 2012

A leading investor group is alerting shareholders to potential departures from best corporate governance practice at International Airlines Group, parent of British Airways and Iberia.

The Association of British Insurers has issued an "amber top" alert on IAG's remuneration report because of proposed changes to executives' bonus and long-term incentive schemes, as well as what it considers to be unusual arrangements for the chairman's retirement benefits.

Pirc, another shareholder adviser, has objected to the fact that IAG's directors are not up for re-election at what will be the company's first annual meeting on June 21. The combined code on corporate governance recommends that, in the interests of accountability, directors of FTSE 350 companies are subject to annual re-election.

The ABI's amber top is intended to ensure that investors review the issues flagged by the shareholder group before voting. While IAG is incorporated in Spain, it has its main listing on the London Stock Exchange, reflecting the formation of the company last year through the merger of BA and Iberia.

The ABI is drawing attention to a lump-sum retirement benefit worth ?2.8m to be paid to Antonio Vázquez Romero, IAG's chairman, when he leaves the company. The lump sum is based on arrangements that were contained in Mr Romero's service contract after he became chairman of Iberia, according to IAG's annual report.

The report also said Rafael Sánchez-Lozano, Iberia's chief executive, is entitled to a lump-sum retirement benefit worth ?1.2m under his service contract with the company. The ABI notes that, in the UK, retirement benefits are usually not outlined in service contracts.

The group is also alerting shareholders to changes proposed by IAG's remuneration committee to the performance metrics used for determining executives' bonuses. In 2011, profit before tax was used for determining bonuses. This year, operating profit will be used.

IAG's remuneration committee is also proposing changes to share awards made under the company's long-term incentive scheme. Share awards made in 2011 are due to vest partly based on IAG's total shareholder return relative to a group of airlines. Share awards made this year are due to vest partly based on IAG's TSR relative to the MSCI European transportation index. ISS, another shareholder adviser, has recommended that investors vote for IAG's resolutions at the annual meeting.

The airlines group said it was agreed at the time of the merger that directors would present themselves for re-election from 2013, so as to provide board stability in the company's early years. According to the annual report, it was decided to use operating profit for determining bonuses because it was more within management's control than profit before tax. The report added that changes to the long-term incentive scheme would improve its effectiveness.

IAG, explaining the retirement benefits for Mr Romero and Mr Sanchez-Lozano, said: "This is a legacy contractual arrangement relating to their contracts prior to the British Airways/Iberia merger and does not form part of the IAG policy for new hire service contracts. This arrangement... is not a part of our remuneration policy going forward."

The ABI declined to comment.


Replacing Heathrow with a new hub airport east of London would raise many more problems than supporters of the project suggest, an aviation seminar in London heard yesterday

Ian Taylor - Travel Weekly - 1 June 2012

Chris Chalk, director of aviation at engineering and development consultancy Mott MacDonald, said: "People have written off Heathrow without fully comprehending its importance. "Moving elsewhere means Heathrow must close otherwise the hub won't move. It means losing London's biggest employment site."

Chalk told the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum: "It would be like a heart transplant, with all the risk of that."

Medway Council director of regeneration, community and culture Robin Cooper said: "Forty thousand people with homes or livelihoods in the area [of the new airport] would be displaced. We build about 750 houses a year in Medway. The airport would require 170,000."

Cooper said: "There are massive environmental problems: 300,000 birds live in the Thames estuary. The chance of a bird strike would be 12 times that at any other UK airport. There are 1,400 tonnes of unexploded bombs in a [sunken] ship at the end of one 'runway'. One fifth of UK gas comes into a terminal by the side of the airport [site]."

He argued: "It is the most-congested place in the UK. Everyone who came through the airport would have to go through or around London. It seems illogical to put the UK's biggest airport in the most-crowded bit of the country."

Birmingham Airport head of government and industry affairs John Morris argued there were problems with both options. He said: "A third runway at Heathrow would account for just 7% of UK aviation capacity by 2050. The implication is you would have to build a fourth and a fifth runway. Let's be honest about that."

However, Morris said: "If you built a Thames estuary airport you would need a city the size of Manchester to support it in an area that already requires five new reservoirs." He argued: "You could take out 10% of capacity at Heathrow if Birmingham served passengers where they are [because] 3.3 million passengers a year clog roads travelling from the Midlands to Heathrow."

Cooper quoted a Deutsche Bank report on the proposal to replace Heathrow, which concluded: "The costs are vastly underestimated. It will take a lot more public funding than has been acknowledged."

Chalk warned: "The amount of scrutiny from competing airports as to whether any Thames estuary airport received a public subsidy would be intense."


HEATHROW'S passenger traffic has taken a hit
as the Eurozone crisis deepened

Salina Patel - skyport-heathrow.co.uk - 12 June 2012

Traveller numbers plunged to the countries with the most turbulent economies including Greece, Portugal and Italy.

Airport owner BAA reported travel between Heathrow and Greece dropped 11.3 per cent compared to May last year, while numbers to and from Portugal fell by 11.4 per cent, Italy by 9.2 per cent, and Spain by 2.5 per cent.

The airport welcomed 5.8 million people through its four terminals last month, down 0.6 per cent for the same period in 2011. BAA attributed most of the fall due to last year's late Easter and Royal Wedding which boosted traffic in May 2011, and the move of the late May bank holiday into June this year. Across the group, BAA carried more than 9.3 million passengers through its six airport's last month, a fall of 0.1 per cent compared to May 2011.

Stansted saw passenger numbers drop 5.5 per cent with European scheduled and long haul traffic most affected, while Southampton traffic was also down 4.7 per cent.

The three Scottish airports, Edinburgh which has been sold, all reported a rise in passenger numbers. Aberdeen climbed 16 per cent, Glasgow was up almost 10 per cent, and Edinburgh handled 2.2 per cent more passengers compared to last year. BAA said the Scottish airports all saw their performance affected by cancellations in May last year due to the volcanic ash cloud.

Cargo traffic dropped 2.4 per cent for the group, with Heathrow suffering a 3.8 per cent fall.

BAA chief executive, Colin Matthews, said: "The continued resilience of our airports in the face of economic turbulence is encouraging. But the impact of the Eurozone crisis is still being felt with sharp falls in passenger numbers to the worst affected countries and reduced cargo traffic. This is why the UK needs to urgently build better links to the countries whose economies are growing such as China, India and Brazil. But with the UK's only hub airport, Heathrow, already full, France and Germany are forging ahead and we are being left behind."

OUR COMMENT: See above, "Just a Reminder".

Pat Dale


A group of airlines that part-owns the UK's air traffic controller is seeking
to sell its stake in the part-privatised company even though the government has quietly shelved plans to sell down its own holding

Rose Jacobs, Anousha Sakoui and Jim Pickard - Financial Times - 3 June 2012

Seven airlines, including British Airways, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic, hold 42 per cent of National Air Traffic Services and are courting potential buyers with the hopes of selling control of their stake this year.

They had originally planned to sell in concert with the government, which wanted to raise about £250m by disposing of half its 49 per cent stake. Those plans had been two years in the making and still seemed likely as recently as March. But people close to the sale process say government officials have had a change of heart, stemming in part from fear of a public uproar over their selling control of a strategic asset.

The issue had risked becoming a political hot potato. Maria Eagle, the shadow transport secretary, had threatened a Labour vote against the "reckless" and "ideologically driven" sale. On Sunday night Ms Eagle said: "The government must now urgently confirm that they now finally understand the clear national interest in maintaining control of this key strategic asset which operates at no cost to the taxpayer."

The half-dozen or so parties talking to the airline group are understood to include infrastructure funds, pension funds and trade buyers, including DFS, Germany's air traffic controller, which could draw criticism.

When the government proposed privatising the country's national forests in 2010, the furore that followed forced it into an embarrassing U-turn - and one person close to the talks said concerns were that this sale would come under even greater fire. The company's part-privatisation by the previous Labour administration in 2001 was already highly controversial.

The government can still veto the airline group's plans. But it has decided to watch how the stake sale proceeds and has not ruled out joining if they attracted a good offer, one person said.

Other complications deterring a government sale have included marshalling the airlines and getting support from bondholders, who can veto changes in ownership. "The terms and conditions of £600m in bonds make it difficult for a change of control without permission of bondholders and it seems they would extract a very high price for that," said one person.

The consortium is understood to have begun marketing its stake independently at the start of the year. Investors would be buying into the airline group itself, rather than into Nats, thus sidestepping the need for bondholder approval. Because the group exerts operational control under the terms of the original part-privatisation, such a sale would still attract strategic buyers.

The group is eager to agree a sale this year, before the air traffic controller gets too close to the end of its regulatory period, when uncertainty over future returns could drag back the asking price. Airport operator BAA, which holds 4 per cent of Nats, was ready to sell its stake as part of a government sale but may hold it now that that plan is off. Nats employees own the remaining 5 per cent.

Analysts have estimated the government's whole stake is worth £500m, valuing Nats at a 10 per cent premium to its regulatory asset base. The Department for Transport said no decision had yet been taken on the future of the government's stake. "There was no formal sales process launched so nothing has been cancelled," a spokeswoman said.

Air traffic control was part-privatised in a controversial move by the Labour government in 2001, leaving 49 per cent of the group in state control. A sale of the remaining stake has been mooted several times since, with George Osborne earmarking it in 2010 alongside other potential sale targets such as the Tote and Royal Mail. But the corporate partners warned that a sell-out of the entire stake could leave Britain shut out of discussions over the reforms of European air traffic control.

OUR COMMENT: Private ownership of our air space? Whatever next? Air rationing?

Pat Dale


Four weeks of noise monitoring to exemplify noise pollution

BrentfordtW8.com - 13 June 2012

This European Union supported project is due to be launched on Tuesday 19th June in Isleworth at 7pm at Isleworth Public Hall. The project, a collaboration between UCL (University College London) and HACAN (Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise), aims to enable the local community around Isleworth to do something about the problem of noise pollution caused by living under the Heathrow Airport flightpath.

Recordings will be made through new technology which has been developed for smartphones that will allow easy measuring of noise levels which immediately place the data on an online map and can be shared by all.

Over a period of 4 weeks starting from the public launch event, residents of Isleworth are being encouraged to record their personal exposure to noise by using the phone application to create a collective local map of Isleworth. The idea is to enable local residents to demonstrate the levels of noise they are actually exposed to based on their own data collection.

UCL project community officer Joe Ryle said: "What makes this project exciting is that it gives communities the capability of doing something about the problem of noise pollution for themselves by collecting their own noise readings. If the project is successful we could have thousands of people under the Heathrow flight path doing something to combat their concerns around noise from planes".

HACAN chair John Stewart said: "The project will include the first few weeks of the 'operational trials' due to start on 1st July. It will give residents a really useful way measuring the impact of the trials."

The project is supported by the European Union research project Everyaware, University College London and Mapping for Change

Widenoise is a free smartphone application that you can run on your Android or iPhone which can send sound level data to the Isleworth Noise Map (this is where all the data will be displayed).


EU transport ministers meeting in Luxembourg on 7 June may adopt
a provisional agreement on new rules to regulate airport noise, according
to a note and compromise text published by the Council of Ministers
on Wednesday

ENDS Europe DAILY - 1 June 2012

The note from the Danish presidency calls on the ministers to resolve all outstanding issues so that a general approach can be struck at the meeting. General approaches are informal council deals reached before European Parliament first-reading positions.

In December, the European Commission proposed a regulation to implement guidance from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) consistently across the EU. Its 'balanced approach' requires airports to prioritise noise management policies that have the least impact on business.

Small but important amendments proposed by the presidency received general support from several member states at a meeting of permanent representatives in Brussels on 25 May. But others, such as Germany, are not entirely satisfied with the compromise text, for example the definition of 'marginally compliant aircraft'.

Commission officials present during council discussions have raised concern about a weakening of a provision that would give the EU executive powers to scrutinise noise-related operating measures. According to the compromise text, it would not be able to suspend such measures if they are deemed inappropriate.

The text does not reflect the right of scrutiny conferred to the commission in an EU-US agreement on air transport signed in 2010, it says. The UK supports this view but several member states interpret the issue differently.

In the parliament's transport committee, rapporteur Jörg Leichtfried will issue recommendations in September. A committee vote is due in November.

OUR COMMENT: A "balanced approach" - prioritise noise management policies for business? Are individual citizens expendable?

Pat Dale


BAA has won the right to appeal an order to sell Stansted airport
in the first big break for the airport operator for two years in its fight
against the original ruling

Rose Jacobs - Financial Times - 28 May 2012

BAA, which is owned by Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial, went to the Court of Appeal on Monday seeking a chance to overturn a February decision by the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) upholding a 2009 Competition Commission order that it sell Stansted, Gatwick and one of its Scottish airports.

An investigation by the commission had found that BAA's grip on airports in the south-east and Scotland stymied competition, hurting both airlines and travellers, and decided separate ownership of each of London's three biggest airports, as well as Scotland's two biggest airports, was an appropriate remedy.

BAA complied with the disposal order in the case of Gatwick, which it sold in late 2009, and Edinburgh, which was sold last month. However, it has resisted selling Stansted, making multiple appeals since 2009 - including through a judicial review that year and an application to the Supreme Court in 2010. It plans to argue in this latest appeal that the original ruling has been misinterpreted, and that Heathrow and Stansted compete with each other only to a limited extent. It will also contest the commission's approach to assessing the cost to BAA of a forced sale.

The company said on Monday: "We are pleased that permission to appeal has been granted and look forward to presenting our arguments before the Court of Appeal." The Competition Commission said it looked forward to restating its case.

The Court of Appeal has not yet given a date for a hearing but a ruling is not expected before the autumn. If BAA is forced to sell, analysts predict a pricetag of at least £1bn, or 11 times Stansted's earnings last year. That is lower than the multiple Edinburgh commanded in part because Stansted is a regulated asset, limiting the airport's annual returns.

But Douglas McNeill, an analyst at Charles Stanley, pointed out that that was not Stansted's only problem: "It's a shrinking airport and the same is not true of Edinburgh."

The airport's declining traffic was one of BAA's reasons for arguing last year that circumstances had changed so significantly since the 2009 decision that the remedies should be adjusted. Olivia Peters, an analyst with RBC Capital Management, said Monday's Court of Appeal ruling "does come as a bit of a surprise since BAA have already appealed and they lost it". She added: "Given Heathrow and Stansted do not compete with each other - they have a completely different customer base - it seems a fairer decision."

But Ryanair, Stansted's biggest customer, condemned the decision to hear BAA's appeal. "This seventh appeal will further delay the sale of Stansted, proving yet again that the BAA has no regard for passengers, competition or tourism as it attempts to retain its stranglehold over London traffic," it said.


Travel Weekly - 29 May 2012

London mayor Boris Johnson says Gatwick and Stansted should be expanded as stop-gaps ahead of any new airport built in the south east of England But he accused the government of trying to kick a decision about a new airport into "the long grass" until past the next election.

Johnson told BBC Two's Newsnight this was down to the coalition leadership trying to "appease their ideological environmental wing" of both parties. He said he believes his colleagues in central government appear to be "tip-toeing back towards the electrified fence of the third runway" at Heathrow and says that if they go ahead they will get "the most powerful shock".

Johnson said he will "die in a ditch" to prevent a third runway at Heathrow and instead urged Whitehall to discard the coalition agreement and consider expanding at Stansted or Gatwick as an interim solution ahead of any new airport built in the region. He also dismissed a suggested proposal that RAF Northolt - close to Heathrow - should be brought into use as an alternative third runway.

The mayor has long championed an idea of a new 'Boris island' hub airport in the Thames estuary which would double the current capacity of Heathrow. But he accepted that there must be some "stop-gap" solution, and says that ideas ruled out by the coalition - such as the building of extra runways at either Stansted or Gatwick - might need to be reconsidered.

Johnson, speaking out head of the government's plans to publish a consultation paper on expanding airport capacity in the south east tis summer, told the BBC: "London is unlike any other capital in the world. We ask our planes to fly in over the city and land in the western suburbs. Nobody else does it that way - it is an historical accident. We should not aggravate that mistake. I think there is now a risk that the government is going to tip-toe back towards the electrified fence of the third runway - you can hear some of the mutterings from some people in the Treasury and the Department for Transport - they are testing the water, to mix my metaphors."

"But when they get to that electrified fence they will have a most powerful shock. It is not deliverable - now or in the future, the third runway is, as they say in Brussels, Caduck. It is dead, it is over, move on."

Asked what would happen to Heathrow should a new four runway airport be built, Johnson said: "You are creating a new hub airport... doesn't mean Heathrow couldn't be a local airport. But in terms of a new hub that would not be at Heathrow."

OUR COMMENT: A new concept of airport expansion unlikely to appeal to BAA or any possible purchaser!

Pat Dale


UP to 100 new jobs are set to be generated by the arrival
of a Florida-based company at Stansted Airport

Herts & Essex Observer - 22 May 2012

Aero Toy Store has been given planning permission to use the Diamond Hangar on Long Border Road as the site for new "fixed-base operations". Previously the site was a main base for SR Technics, but the Swiss airline support company shifted most of its operation to its Zurich headquarters in 2010, with the loss of around 340 jobs.

Aero Toy Store is said to be spending $2m refurbishing the hangar to accommodate its plans. The main use of the building will remain, but the emphasis will shift from the maintenance and overhaul of civil airliners to that of private and business aircraft, including helicopters. In addition it will cater for the arrival and departure of VIP passengers on private jets and helicopters, similar to the services already on offer at Stansted from Harrods and Inflite.

Aero Toy Store will also provide luxury cars for hire by its exclusive travellers - prompting objections from Stansted Parish Council - and the chance for rich clients to view private jets and choppers before buying.

In its planning application, agent Barton Wilmore LLP told Uttlesford District Council: "The proposed development will provide up to 50 new jobs initially which is expected to rise to 100 once the operation is established. The nature of the proposed development may also have wider benefits by providing a luxury facility for VIPs arriving at Stansted to do business in the UK."

The company, based in Fort Lauderdale, was set up in 1993.

Stansted Airport managing director Nick Barton told the Observer: "We're wishing them all the best with their exciting new endeavour."


A proposed £1bn sale by the Government of its 49 per cent stake
in the National Air Traffic Services is understood to have stalled

Ray Massey, Transport Editor - This is Money - 25 May 2012

The Treasury is believed to be backing off the idea of selling the air traffic control provider amid fears that German air bosses would move in to take over UK airspace. But insiders add that a second threat comes from the seven predominantly UK airlines selling their jointly held 42 per cent share to the Germans.

At the centre of the battle for British airspace is the part-privatised NATS, in which the Government retains a 49 per cent stake. Ministers announced two years ago they were minded to sell off all or part of this golden share, retained when the last Labour government sold off 51 per cent a decade ago to the airlines, staff, and airport operator BAA.

Germany's state-controlled air traffic control body Deutsche Flugsicherung (DFS) has expressed keen interest in a stake in NATS. A source close to the talks said: "It would not be a good idea to hand control of Britain's skies to Berlin. This is what is making the Treasury nervous. All the signs are that the Government is not now going to go ahead with the sell off of its share. Air traffic control is a strategic resource. To put it in the hands of a foreign government - whether Germany or anyone else - would be a courageous decision."

However, because of the way NATS is structured, it is the seven airlines who together form the Airline Group and together hold 42 per cent of the shares, which will determine its future. They comprise British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Monarch, TUI, Thomas Cook and Lufthansa. This group recently appointed investment bank Rothschild to advise them on a sale of their stake. Experts point out that in reality, anyone who wanted to take control of NATS would need only to secure a majority of the Airline Group's stake, or around 22 per cent of the total.

The airlines are said to be keen to sell most or all of their holdings. Airport operator BAA owns 4 per cent and the employees 5 per cent, a proportion which the firm would like to see double. Another fear is that a venture capital company may step in for three or four years and 'asset strip' the company. The preferred option for those close to NATS is for a major aviation player such as Boeing or Airbus to take the major stakes.

Last year NATS produced pre-tax profits of £106m based on a turnover of £777m. Its year end figures on June 29 are expected to be 'upbeat' despite the recession.

OUR COMMENT: "courageous" - A strange comment in relation to foreign ownership - most utilities have been acquired by foreign firms though there is some protection for us citizens in relevant UK legislation. However, the situation with regard to UK's right to control the use of air space above our heads is not clear. Neither is it clear what the rights of UK citizens would be if travel through our air space was controlled entirely by private firms, UK or foreign!

Pat Dale


A SECRET plan to treble the size of Luton Airport to 30 million passengers
a year has been discovered, according to Hertfordshire County Council

St. Albans Review - 23 May 2012

The authority says that "behind the scenes the owner of the airport has been in discussions with the Planning Inspectorate" over a potential planning application.

County Councillor Robert Gordon, leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said: "I am stunned by this news. Make no mistake, this is a huge expansion proposal and represents a throughput not significantly different from that currently experienced at London Gatwick and 10mppa more than currently experienced at London Stansted."

Last year 9.5 million people passed through the airport.


THE owner of Luton Airport has insisted the only plans that are currently
being pursued involve expanding the site's capacity to 18 million
passengers a year

Manisha Mistry - St. Albans Review - 24 May 2012

A spokesman for London Luton Airport Limited has responded to claims made by Hertfordshire County Council that it uncovered secret plans which seek to treble the airport's capacity to 30 million passengers a year.

A statement released by LLAL reads: "In considering future opportunities for London Luton Airport, LLAL has looked at a number of alternative development scenarios and have been completely open about this. These have included expanding the airport to make best use of the runway capacity that the Government identified in the Future of Aviation White Paper as being up to 30 million passengers per annum."

"A preliminary meeting took place with the then Infrastructure Planning Commission and the project was identified on its website and a nominal application date was given. At present, LLAL is concentrating upon the 10 mppa futureLuToN:Optimisation project."

"This means that a 30 mppa project is not being pursued for the time being. If this were ever to be pursued the proposal would have to be subject to the rigorous environment impact assessment processes and public consultation that apply under the Planning Act 2008."


The government says it will consider the economic impact of sleep disruption on people living near Heathrow in any review of night flights to the airport

BBC News - 28 May 2012

Current rules, under which an average of between 14 and 16 flights land before 6am each day, were recently extended until October 2014.
Minister Earl Attlee pledged to balance business and noise concerns in future.
Anti-noise campaigners said they were "pleased" but airlines said there was no "significant evidence" of damage.

The coalition government is coming under increasing pressure from business and many Conservative MPs to reconsider its decision to rule out building a third runway at Heathrow. At the same time, campaigners are pressing for a ban on flights arriving before 6am - which come mainly from the Far East and the west coast of America - and a phased reduction in arrivals before 6am and 7am to ease the disruption to nearby residents.

'Gentle timetable'
"Local residents are woken at 4am onwards not because of capacity issues at Heathrow but because of limits on departure schedules at other airports," Lib Dem peer Baroness Kramer told peers.

"We have frankly never believed the argument made by the airline industry that if 16 night flights were moved to daytime then the economy of London and the UK would collapse" - Hacan. "If the government will not commit to eliminating night flights, will it at least undertake to negotiate with the relevant countries for a timetable more gentle to residents under the flight path in this country?"

Responding for the government, Earl Attlee said any review must "strike a balance between noise disturbance and the economic benefits of night flights". He suggested that putting pressure on foreign airlines to delay departure times of flights to London, to allow for later arrivals, might cause "problems" in Asia but pointed out that airlines were not allowed to use their noisiest aircraft on routes arriving at this time.

He was urged by Labour's Lord Faulkener of Worcester to consider "the economic disbenefits of the effects of sleep deprivation and other social effects as a result of night flights against the economic benefits of having more planes arriving earlier". Earl Attlee replied that ministers "would do exactly that" when it came to Heathrow. However, he said he could not make a similar pledge for Gatwick and Stansted as the number of residents affected by night flights totalled only a couple of thousand, as opposed to nearly 230,000 near Heathrow.

'Vital for UK'
The Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise said the issue of sleep deprivation and its economic effects had never been considered before in a review of flight patterns.

The number of aircraft allowed to land before 0600 is limited
The noisiest aircraft are not allowed to arrive or depart between 2330 and 0730

It said a report it had commissioned from Dutch aviation consultants Ce Delft suggested the economic disadvantages of night flights into Heathrow outweighed their benefits. "We have, frankly, never believed the argument made by the airline industry that if 16 night flights were moved to daytime then the economy of London and the UK would collapse," John Stewart, the organisation's chairman, said.

Airlines said they had yet to see any "significant evidence" that sleep deprivation was causing economic damage and pointed out that many people chose to live near to Heathrow because they either worked there or wanted quick access. "We would certainly not want to see any further tightening of the screw on night flights as we believe it would have a detrimental economic impact," said Simon Buck, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association.

"We certainly believe it is vital for the UK economy that there are night flights because without them it would be impossible to continue serving certain destinations." And Labour peer Lord Foulkes said the issue that really needed to be addressed was that Heathrow was operating at maximum capacity. "Isn't it about time that the government stopped dithering and made a decision to go ahead with a new runway at Heathrow?"


Ministry to launch tender if sale plan approved

Reuters - 22 May 2012

Britain's Ministry of Defence (MoD) said on Tuesday it was considering selling its 2,500-kilometre long aviation fuel network to generate income for the government looking to reduce its debt burden. The network supplies 40 pct of UK aviation fuel

The ministry launched a consultation on the sale on Tuesday and said it would call for an official tender if it decided to go ahead with the sale, a spokeswoman said. "The benefits of selling GPSS (Government Pipeline and Storage System) include: generating a capital receipt for government; enabling increased private sector investment in the pipeline in order to increase the resilience of the system; and allowing commercial development," the ministry said in a legislation document.

The spokeswoman said the ministry could not speculate on how much the network was worth. The legal framework needed for the sale passed a first hurdle on Tuesday when the publication of the Draft Energy Bill proposed to allow the sale. The final Energy Bill is expected to pass through Parliament in the autumn.

The MoD's network distributes around 40 percent of Britain's aviation fuel and supplies sites such as Heathrow and Gatwick airports, as well as British and U.S. military airbases in England and Scotland. Once sold, the MoD will contract the buyer to continue supplying its and associated sites with aviation fuel, the legislation document said.

The network was built in 1939 to establish an oil distribution network in Britain coinciding with the start of World War Two. It has been extended since to include storage depots, pumping stations and other sites.

(Reporting by Karolin Schaps; editing by Jason Neely)

OUR COMMENT: More sell-offs! Where is the profit in this operation?

Pat Dale


David Cohen and Peter Dominiczak - This is London - 24 May 2012

London's three main airports may all need new runways to meet demand in future decades, a Conservative report says today.

The proposal to expand Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted will alarm hundreds of thousands of residents and environmentalists. The study, part of a series of papers by Tory MPs for the economic "Growth Factory", argues that at least one new runway is needed in the South-East by 2020. But it goes even further - suggesting that the aviation crisis is now so bad that all three airports will need extending. "Creating new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted could probably meet aviation demand for the next few decades," it adds, taking the debate about airport expansion to a new level.

Spelthorne MP Kwasi Kwarteng, the report's author, told the Standard: "We can't stick our head in the sand. In the future the richest countries are going to be flying more. It's a simple question of do we want to be part of that or do we want to just slip back and let other people power ahead." He backs a third runway at Heathrow and is also open to the idea of a "Boris island" airport in the Thames Estuary, although he questions whether it may take too long to build.

He also proposes that Heathrow's third runway could be the existing runway at RAF Northolt - highlighting that airports such as Amsterdam's Schiphol have runways several miles from the control tower.

Today leading airline figures also stoked the debate, warning that a new airport in the Thames Estuary would force Heathrow to close and would cause "catastrophic" unemployment in west London. The experts including airline chief Willie Walsh and BAA's Colin Matthews said plans for a third runway at Heathrow, which is 99 per cent full, must now be re-visited.

Boris Johnson is backing a new four-runway hub airport in the Thames Estuary designed by architect Lord Foster. But in another blow to the £50 billion project, a managing director at Deutsche Bank has said the island airport will never work because the Government would "struggle" to get private backers.

In an interview with the Standard Mr Matthews said he is desperate for the country to have "a grown-up debate" about the "urgent economic need" for expanding Heathrow and said a second hub in the Thames Estuary is not the answer. And boss of BA owner IAG, Mr Walsh, said: "The business case for a new Thames Estuary airport does not stack up. Even if you could find £50 billion and wait 20 years for it to be built, you cannot make airlines use it. You would have to force the closure of Heathrow. It would wreck the economy of west London."

He added that BA would not move. And John Stewart, of HACAN Clear-Skies, which opposes expansion of Heathrow, said: "It would wipe out more than 100,000 jobs."

In a speech to the Institution of Civil Engineers Mike Redican, a managing director at Deutsche Bank, said Heathrow would be forced to close because "private funding will not take traffic risk on two airports operating simultaneously".


We need something that can deliver emission reductions from
existing fleets of planes - and the solution already exists

Ben Caldecott - The Guardian - 16 May 2012

As a small, maritime trading nation Britain has always been some distance from big international markets. Our ability to visit far-off places and people, and their access to us, has always been at the heart of our ability to punch above our weight in the world, whether that's commercially, culturally or diplomatically.

In the past we were dependent on ships, now we are reliant on commercial airlines, as well as the Channel Tunnel and secure data networks. This infrastructure is critical for our future, particularly as we look to major economies like India, China and Brazil for export opportunities. But it is also vital for sustaining our outward facing society and culture; one that's confident engaging with the world and welcoming of its diversity.

Rail and video-conferencing will help, but air travel will remain absolutely essential and more people are going to fly, especially to and from a networked, diverse, outward-facing island nation like our own.

We should embrace this, but we must also recognise that flying more will also have negative consequences, in particular greenhouse gas emissions. The positive progress on including aviation in Europe's carbon trading scheme this week is welcome, but neither that nor more efficient aircraft will deal with the industry's climate problem. As I will argue, only biofuels can do that.

Aviation currently accounts for a relatively small proportion of global carbon emissions: 6% of UK, 4% of European Union and 2% of world. This will change fast though, with global aviation expected to grow at 5% a year for at least the next 15 years. If so, by 2050 aviation emissions will account for up to 20% of global emissions, making tackling global warming significantly harder.

Though new airport capacity in the UK is essential, plans for it must convincingly address this important pollution challenge.

Including aviation in the Europe's Emissions Trading Scheme is a step in the right direction, but at current carbon prices it will not spur the innovations needed to cut pollution. Some say the aviation sector has a good track record of improving the fuel efficiency of new aircraft, achieving an average annual improvement of about 1.5%. But these emissions savings will be completely overwhelmed by growing global demand for aviation.

So we desperately need something that can deliver a step-change in emission reductions from existing fleets, particularly as planes built today will be in service for many years to come. The only option is to replace existing jet fuel (kerosene) with an alternative that can deliver deep emission reductions and be used to current aircraft. Fortunately, this technology exists: sustainable bio jet fuels.

Made from advanced feedstocks and able to provide significant life-cycle emission reductions and meet other stringent sustainability standards, these fuels can be produced today and have already received certification for use in commercial jet aircraft. They can also be produced now at costs not far above the high and volatile price of jet fuel, with Bloomberg predicting that they could potentially reach price parity with kerosene in 2016.

There is an opportunity for the UK to align its need to develop new airport capacity with the development of sustainable bio jet fuels at scale. We should work to ensure that any new airport provide airlines with the best biofuels available.

Airport operators should have to provide airlines with a blend of jet fuel that has a significant and rising proportion of sustainable bio jet fuel. This would significantly reduce emissions from flights. The mandate should start at an achievable level, say where the blend would have to be 15% less polluting than jet fuel today based on the strictest sustainability standards. It could then ratchet up to reach a point where the blend was 60% less polluting within a reasonable time-frame.

Airlines would benefit from a genuine and cost-effective emission reduction strategy, which might even attract environmentally conscious flyers. Not many hubs would need to follow the UK before the majority of international flights used sustainable bio jet fuel blends, perhaps only New York, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore need change, in addition to London.

An ambitious blending mandate would send exactly the signal required to accelerate the development of sustainable bio jet fuels. Airport operators would be required to demonstrate they had a plan to meet the incoming mandate and would sign supply contracts with developers, which would spur innovation and investment. The UK government could also ensure that our leading biotech, aviation and university sectors work in unison to create solutions, through targeted research programmes and tax relief for collaborative work.

The luddite wing of the environmental movement will think such proposals sacrilegious - their only solution is to stop flying. But the reality is that there will be and should be more international travel, particularly to and from the UK. The challenge is to make this as least polluting as is possible, while also minimising local airport impacts. By aligning the debate about airport capacity sensibly with environmental objectives, we can make a significant dent in aviation emissions globally as well as guarantee sufficient airport capacity to keep UK plc open for both business and pleasure.

Ben Caldecott is head of policy at Climate Change Capital and co-author of 'Green Skies Thinking: Promoting the development and commercialisation of sustainable bio-jet fuels'

OUR COMMENT: Biofuels cannot be the answer to allow more and more aviation expansion. It depends on the source used to produce the fuel. Agricultural land needed for food should not be diverted into biofuel production. We need to assess what sources are available and exactly what the carbon savings are.

Pat Dale


Asiaone.com/news - 14 May 2012

SEOUL - South Korea's main airport operator is interested in buying London's Stansted from the British Airports Authority in a bid to expand overseas business, an official said Monday.

State-owned Incheon International Airport Corp is "watching with interest" Stansted as well as Glasgow airport, the Incheon official told AFP on condition of anonymity. "We also have an interest in other British airports to be put up for sale in the near future," he said, adding no specific plans had been made yet including how to finance a potential bid.

Britain's Competition Commission in 2009 ordered BAA, owned by Spanish conglomerate Ferrovial, to offload London's Gatwick and Stansted airports as well as either Edinburgh or Glasgow to meet anti-competition requirements. BAA has subsequently sold Gatwick and Edinburgh airports to US investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners. In February it lost an appeal against the order to sell Stansted.

The Korea Economic Daily reported Monday that Incheon was in talks with companies such as JP Morgan Asset Management for a potential joint bid for Stansted or Glasgow. Incheon airport has been seeking to expand its overseas businesses which accounted for less than one per cent of its total revenue of 1.5 trillion won (S$1.6 billion) last year. "Our overseas business since 2009 is only in its infancy. We're mulling various plans to develop it including buying stakes in foreign airports or construction of (new airports)," the airport official told AFP.

Incheon, South Korea's biggest aviation hub, handled about 35 million passengers last year and has several times been rated the world's best airport by the Airports Council International. Stansted is Britain's fourth busiest airport, handling 18.3 million passengers a year.


THE boss of the UK's biggest airline has called
for a second runway to be built at Stansted

Herts & Essex Observer - 30 April 2012

Easyjet chief executive Carolyn McCall is reported to have urged the Government to think again on aviation expansion in the South East after transport secretary Theresa Villiers made it clear the Government was not changing its stance on vetoing a third runway at Heathrow.

Ms McCall told The Daily Telegraph the country was stuck in a "circular" debate about expansion. "In Europe there is a stark contrast: there is no debate. In Amsterdam, the government and airport are completely aligned about developing Schipol. In [Milan] Malpensa, they are continuing to grow. No-one is debating 'Should there be more capacity and should we have another runway?' There's just a real focus on the fact that air passengers bring money into the economy and they are really important for growth."

Ms McCall said that a second runway at Gatwick or Stansted made the "most economic sense" and singled out the Essex base as the "most ripe". Her views echo those of Stansted's biggest airline, Ryanair. After the Budget in March, boss Michael O'Leary claimed that airport passenger duty (APD) was crippling regional airport traffic, tourism and jobs.

"This insane policy of taxing tourists instead of welcoming them is deeply damaging," he said. "The Government must scrap APD and plan for additional runways in the South East at Stansted and Heathrow."

On Monday BAA announced it had agreed to sell its 100 per cent interest in the Scottish hub to GIP for £807.2m. In February, the operator confirmed it was making another attempt to hold on to Stansted, in defiance of the Competition Commission (CC), which had ordered it to sell the Essex airport, Gatwick and either Glasgow or Edinburgh.

Gatwick has already been disposed of. On Tuesday, Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said: "The sale of Edinburgh now clears the way for the final sale of Stansted, which the BAA monopoly has been delaying since the CC first recommended it in 2006."


Dunmow Broadcast - 7 May 2012

AN ancient forest once used for hunting by royals has taken up the challenge of new technology to provide new ways for people to understand and enjoy the outdoor site in Essex. The project, which was made possible thanks to an award of £30,800 from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and £25,000 from Viridor credits, aims to make Hatfield Forest more relevant to the local community and visitors by increasing opportunities for involvement and learning.

Community groups, schools, colleges and volunteers will research, develop and create the interpretation that will be used on new hand held interpretation devices (PDAs) and CDs that will be available and accessible to all visitors.

These groups will be involved in a variety of activities to create this content, including; undertaking historical research, capturing people's stories and memories to create an oral archive, running a series of events to encourage the wider local community to become involved, creating trails and developing and managing social media platforms to encourage people to share their sightings, stories and photos.

Focusing on a variety of themes - Iron Age, Royal Medieval Hunting Forest, Middle Ages, Georgian, Edwardian and today - the interpretation will be layered and accessible to all. The PDAs will contain trails and wildlife spotters, which will encourage users to learn mor about this historically and ecologically important site whilst exploring Hatfield.

Ade Clarke, National Trust property manager for Essex, said: "The PDAs and education resource pack will enable self led educational tours, allowing more groups to use Hatfield as a learning resource. We are grateful for the crucial assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund in making this a reality. We are looking forward to working with so many groups on the research and development of the interpretation. The project will also create new volunteering opportunities that will appeal to a wider range of audiences."

Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, said: "We are delighted to be able to support this exciting project. It's really important to find innovative ways to help people learn about their heritage. Thanks to Lottery players' money the National Trust will do just that through this project, by helping people from across the community to explore Hatfield Forest's fascinating history."

Hatfield dates back to 1100AD. It's a 1000 acres (400 hectares) site and is a National Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest. It has been owned and managed by the National Trust since 1924. It attracts a huge range of people, doing a wide variety of activities all year round. For the 10,000 education visitors Hatfield provides a superb outdoor classroom for children and adults.

OUR COMMENT: BAA and all would-be purchasers, please note, No additional flights from Stansted airport over this Forest will be allowed! English Heritage must not waste public money!

Pat Dale


Simon Calder - The Independent - 10 May 2012

Heathrow's growth is finished - and the airport faces as a future only as a base for upmarket holiday flights. That was the damning verdict on Europe's busiest airport at a travel conference in London today. The Transport Secretary, Justine Greening, conclusively ruled out any prospect of increasing flights at Heathrow: "We don't think the third runway is the right thing."

Ms Greening also said that "mixed-mode" would not be considered in the government's review of airport capacity. This technique, enabling aircraft to land and take off from both Heathrow runways, extracts at least 25 per cent more capacity with no extra building. But it would greatly increase the amount of noise endured by residents beneath the flight path - including those in Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, the parliamentary constituency she represents.

Colin Matthews, chief executive of Heathrow's owner, BAA, said: "Aviation capacity constraints are damaging the UK economy today when we can least afford it - business connections to fast growing countries like China are being rationed when they should be boosted. None of the options for new capacity is easy but surely the pros and cons of all possible solutions should be carefully considered?"

Most slots at Heathrow are now owned by IAG, the holding company for British Airways, Iberia and BMI. A spokeswoman said: "While the government plans a consultation on airport capacity, it's pointless to rule out one of the options before it starts."

The aviation consultant John Strickland said: "The transport secretary's statement defies credibility for a government which espouses a desire for economic growth and recovery".

Following the re-election of Boris Johnson as Mayor of London, the prospect of a new airport in the Thames Estuary has re-emerged. Green campaigners plan a demonstration against the proposed "Boris Island" at City Hall in London this morning. But Daniel Moylan, the deputy chairman of Transport for London, told the Abta Travel Matters event: "We need to get real about the need for a new hub. Heathrow is not a fully fledged hub and never will be." He said that a Thames Estuary airport could be built within three years, given enough political will. Heathrow would remain open "for high-end leisure".

Many of the staff for a Thames Estuary airport would be newly recruited from Kent and Essex, rather than moving across from west London.

A DfT spokesman said: "There is cross-party consensus that a third runway at Heathrow is not the answer. The previous government rejected 'mixed mode' in 2007 and this government is also opposed to it for the all-day noise, and expanded noise footprint, that communities would suffer as a result."


Boss of BA and Iberia owner says he will not take part in consultation
as some options have been ruled out in advance

Gwyn Topham, Transport Correspondent - The Guardian - 11 May 2012

Willie Walsh, the boss of International Airlines Group, has said he will not be engaging in the coalition's long-awaited consultation on the future of Britain's airports because the government "has no idea what it is talking about".

The overdue draft aviation policy is expected to be published this summer along with a call for evidence on hub airport capacity. Walsh and others, notably the airport operator BAA, have long argued that a hub airport - one sufficiently large to allow connecting passengers to fill long-haul routes - is crucial and that Heathrow, Britain's only hub, is no longer big enough to allow flights to new destinations. As the owner of British Airways and Spain's Iberia, IAG is the largest airline group at Heathrow.

Walsh said: "When I hear the government talking about an intelligent use of capacity at Heathrow - they have no idea what they are talking about. This is the government that cancelled the third runway. They don't know what they are talking about. I've no confidence that this government will able to meet the challenge."

Walsh questioned whether the consultation would be "real", saying: "If they close off options before they start, I don't see the merit in engaging with it."

The coalition has ruled out a third Heathrow runway, and last week the transport secretary, Justine Greening, said "mixed mode" - allowing takeoffs and landings on the same runway - would also not be considered. However, Greening said the government would look at other, unspecified ways of maximising Heathrow's capacity.

George Osborne, the chancellor, has said the government will explore all options for maintaining Britain's airport hub capacity with the exception of a third runway at Heathrow.

Walsh said: "We need to be honest and mature - if you're going to have a consultation, to say you're eliminating options before you start doesn't seem mature or really serious."

Greening has promised a fast process and said she will set out a timeline for action as part of the call for evidence on hub airports, which she hoped would be "a more informed debate with a little less heat and more light". Walsh said: "They've been giving that answer for two years - there isn't any credibility in this government. They should turn round and say: 'You know what, we don't know what we're doing.' Then we'd know where they stand."

Walsh, who is taking a delegation of businessmen to China this weekend to explore export opportunities, said the lack of airport capacity in the UK was harming British business. "China isn't just about Beijing and Shanghai but growth opportunities in cities most people don't know the names of. You can fly to them from Paris and Amsterdam and even Helsinki, and yet we're trying to convince ourselves that this is an opportunity for the UK. It's not, because we can't connect. Longer-term it's going to have real consequences for the UK."

On Friday IAG announced an operating loss of ?249m (£200m) for the first quarter of 2012, compared with a ?102m loss for the same period last year. Walsh said the "underlying performance was pretty good" but there had been a massive increase in the fuel bill, up 25% to ?1.4bn. He admitted that Iberia's operating performance was poor, but said long-term the Spanish airline would not drag down its merged partner British Airways.

"Long-term, the economic situation in Spain will be difficult but will improve, and the restructuring we're doing ourselves in Iberia will benefit the business." Walsh said arbitration should mean no imminent repeat of strikes by Iberia pilots that hit IAG profits. He anticipated that a restructured bmi, whose purchase by IAG from Lufthansa was cleared last month, would be profitable by 2014. "We've got a big job to do - the scale of losses were huge. But we know what we need to do."

He held out little hope for bmibaby, however, despite ongoing talks and the sale of the other bmi airline, bmi Regional, this week. "We're talking to people and actively seeking a buyer, but I'm not confident of our ability to sell," Walsh said. The airline faces closure by September.


International Airlines Group reported a worse than expected first-quarter operating loss of ?249m and expects to break even only in 2012 because of high fuel costs and charges relating to its acquisition of BMI British Midland

Gwyn Topham, Transport Correspondent - The Guardian - 11 May 2012

IAG, created last year from the merger of British Airways and Iberia, said that its 2012 profitability would be hit by ?240m of operating losses and restructuring charges at BMI, the UK airline bought from Lufthansa last month.

Willie Walsh, chief executive, also acknowledged that the group was suffering from a stock overhang created by Spain's partial renationalisation of Bankia, the deeply troubled Madrid bank and IAG's largest shareholder. IAG reported revenue of ?3.9bn for the three months to March 31, up 7.8 per cent on a pro forma basis compared with the same period last year.

But operating losses before exceptional items rose from ?102m a year ago to ?249m in the first quarter of 2012, driven by a 25 per cent increase in fuel costs. The loss before tax was ?263m, compared with ?47m one year ago. IAG said that the outlook for 2012 involved several uncertainties, including the deteriorating Spanish economy, the prospect of a ?1bn increase in fuel costs compared with 2011 and the impact of the BMI acquisition. Such uncertainties meant that "IAG expects its operating [profit] result to be around break-even level for the full year, after exceptional items".

AG expects to absorb ?150m of operating losses at BMI this year. There will also be ?90m of restructuring charges relating to BMI, partly because up to 1,200 jobs are being cut.

IAG bought BMI because it is the second largest holder of take-off and landing slots at London's capacity constrained Heathrow airport. The acquisition should also enable BA to expand its long-haul operations into emerging markets. In what is typically a weak quarter for many airlines, BA and Iberia reported operating losses of £62m and ?170m, respectively. However, while BA benefits from strong demand for transatlantic air travel, Iberia has been getting hurt by the Spanish recession and strikes by pilots.

Mr Walsh played down the idea that Bankia, the bank that is badly exposed to Spain's real estate crash, would rapidly sell its 12 per cent stake in IAG. He also rejected suggestions that the share overhang would complicate IAG's ability to pursue stock-based deals, adding the group was less interested in buying Transportes Aéreos Portugueses, the Portuguese flag carrier, following the BMI acquisition.

Douglas McNeill, analyst at Charles Stanley, said IAG's management could ignore short-term share price turbulence, but "not if it threatens to happen at a time when IAG wants to further its consolidation agenda by using stock to pay for an acquisition". He added IAG's "second year [of operation] is going to be much less good than its first, with a ?1bn hike in the fuel bill overshadowing everything else".


Over 9 million passengers pass through BAA's airports in April

BAA Press Notice - 11 May 2012

9.1 million passengers travelled through BAA's airports in April, a 0.1% increase on the same month last year. Year-on-year comparisons for the month are complicated by the timing of Easter so combining March and April traffic reveals a year on year increase of 1.9%. 5.8 million passengers passed through Heathrow during April, marginally up on April 2011, another record month for the airport.

Heathrow's load factors continued to increase, rising 0.1 percentage points in April, to 76.4%. The average number of seats per aircraft was also up, rising 1.1% to 197.6. Both increases are consistent with the airport having reached its cap on the number of flights. Cargo movement was down 1.1% across the group and 2.5% at Heathrow, in line with the global economic climate.

The decline in Stansted's passenger numbers moderated to 2.7%, its lowest level in nearly a year.

Aberdeen passenger numbers improved by 11.0%, reflecting the strength in energy related traffic, whilst Glasgow recorded a 6.7% increase. Edinburgh Airport, the sale of which was agreed in April to Global Infrastructure Partners for GBP 807.2m, saw passenger numbers down -1.1%.

Domestic traffic was up 2.7% across the Group in April, whilst European scheduled traffic was up 1.3%, reflecting a rise in business traffic after the Easter holiday period. Traffic between Heathrow and Brazil, India and China continued to grow on last year, with the highest increase coming from Brazil at 11.7%.

BAA Chief Executive, Colin Matthews, said: "These are encouraging figures for Heathrow and BAA's other airports. However, the modest growth in passenger numbers at Heathrow, the UK's only hub airport, comes from larger and fuller aircraft, not from more routes and frequencies to emerging markets. This lack of connectivity is damaging the UK economy."


Ryanair Holdings - News Release - 14 May 2012

Ryanair, the UK's favourite airline, today (13 May) called for the urgent sale of London Stansted Airport, as advised by the Competition Commission in 2008, after the BAA monopoly confirmed that traffic at Stansted continues to decline, with April's figures down 5% on April 2011 resulting in a total loss of 400,000 passengers in the first 4 months of 2012. While Stansted traffic declines, Heathrow and Gatwick's traffic has grown which proves that the BAA monopoly is damaging Stansted.


2011 2012 Decline
Jan 1.1m 1.0m -7%
Feb 1.2m 1.1m -5%
Mar 1.4m 1.3m -5%
Apr 1.6m 1.5m -5%
Avg 1.3m 1.2m -6%

The reason for Stansted's traffic declines is the BAA airport monopoly's policy of increasing passenger charges and providing abject customer services which at Stansted comprises long security queues, frequent baggage belt breakdowns, and excessive passport queues causing delays for British citizens and visitors at Stansted.

Ryanair's Stephen McNamara said: "The BAA's traffic figures show continued declines at Stansted due to its high costs and airport mismanagement. These declining passenger numbers provide further evidence of the urgent need to expedite the BAA's sale of Stansted airport, as first recommended by the UK Competition Commission back in 2008, over 4 years ago. The sale of Stansted into separate ownership will lead to more competition, lower passenger charges, improved passenger services and the roll out of additional and much needed traffic growth at competitive prices in Stansted.


Boeing's groundbreaking 787 Dreamliner will make its first commercial
flight from British shores in August, Qatar Airways has confirmed

Daily Telegraph - 14 May 2012

Speaking at a conference in Dubai, Akbar al Baker, the Middle Eastern airline's chief executive, said the aircraft would be used on one of its five weekly flights between Heathrow and Doha in Qatar. An exact date has yet to be announced.

Although the Dreamliner visited Britain in April as part of a world tour, the move will make Qatar Airways the first carrier to use the Dreamliner on a commercial route to the UK. It will also display the aircraft at the Farnborough Air Show in July.

The Dreamliner was launched earlier this year, nearly three years behind schedule, with All Nippon Airways (ANA) becoming the first airline to fly it. A total of 11 have been delivered so far, with seven being used by ANA, and four by Japan Airways.

Thomson has ordered 13 Dreamliners, but none will enter service until next summer. British Airways has ordered 24, and will also start using the aircraft next year. Virgin Atlantic will begin flights with the Dreamliner in 2014.

The aircraft has been described as the world's most environmentally-friendly - it uses 20 per cent less fuel, costs 30 per cent less to maintain and produces 60 per cent less noise pollution than any other aircraft of the same size.

It also features higher ceilings and larger windows, and is the first aircraft to abandon the "bleed air" system which scientists claim causes aerotoxic syndrome - an illness that can result in dizziness, nausea and breathing difficulties. The bleed air system draws compressed air through the engines and into the cabin, so if there is an oil or hydraulic fuel leak, toxic chemicals can contaminate the air supply. On the Dreamliner, fresh cabin air is pumped from a separate source.

OUR COMMENT: The aviation industry has claimed that improved technology will enable more aircraft to fly using less fuel, thereby saving money on soaring oil prices and reducing carbon emissions to levels needed to reduce climate change. Can these claims be met? This issue is vital to the consideration of the future of aviation and we report below part of a letter on this subject published in the current issue of AirportWatch. To read the whole letter and commentary go to www.airportwatch.org.uk

Pat Dale


Airportwatch Newsletter - May 2012

Kevin Lister has written an open letter to the Aviation Minister, Theresa Villiers, pointing out to her that, despite all the hype about the Dreamliner being touted as the first of a new generation of planes, it is not greatly more fuel efficient than others. It is not likely to "solve" the industry's future fuel or emission problems. Looking at the likely number of passengers, the range and the fuel capacity, the fuel consumption figures for the A380, Boeing 787, 777, and 747 are very comparable. And are in the same range as the old Lockheed Constellation aircraft of the 1950s.

The Dreamliner has lighter components, using carbon fibre rather than aluminium. But its main aim is to be a slightly smaller plane, that can fly long distance, without needing to refuel. This means carrying a great deal of fuel on take off for such a long trip. A doubling in a plane's speed increases drag by a factor of four, and the power consumption of the engines by a factor of eight. Therefore, for greatest fuel efficiency, a plane would fly more slowly and over relatively short distances.

Subject: Is the B787 Dreamliner the end of the road for aviation?

Dear Theresa,
[Additional material from AirportWatch in square brackets].

Boeing's B787 Dreamliner world tour has just finished its stop over in the UK. The media presented it as the next generation plane that would sweep aside the challenges of climate change with the latest new technology. Nothing is further from the truth. The reality is that the B787 is a high risk and desperate last throw of the dice by an industry whose survival is inherently incompatible with the combined crises of climate change and peak oil.

As you wrestle with the concept of making aviation sustainable, it is important you fully understand how the limitations of aero-engineering drive the commercial risk exposure to unacceptable levels. Publicly available information on the Boeing 787 show the typical number of seats is 280, the fuel capacity is 138,700 litres and a range of 15,700 km. Crudely, this gives a fuel consumption of 0.0316 litres/passenger km. [The 787-8 is designed to seat 234 passengers in a three-class setup, 240 in two-class domestic configuration, and 296 passengers in a high-density economy arrangement. So most will not have as many as 280 passengers, and will therefore have higher fuel consumption per passenger kilometer].

Similar data for the long range Boeing 777 is 350 seats, a fuel capacity of 181,283 litres, and a range of 17,000 km giving a fuel consumption of 0.0304 litres/passenger km. Using the same data for the A380 gives 0.032 litres/passenger km. [Using figures of maximum 644 passengers with 2 classes, range of 15,400 kilometers, and fuel capacity of 320,000 litres]. [Airlines generally have fewer passengers: for instance, Singapore Airlines offers 471 seats and a standard configuration is 555 seats. Not 644 seats].

Thus there is little if any measurable improvement between the B787 and previous generation planes such as the B777 and the A380 when taken on this basis.

[For the analysis, the longest range version of the planes was used and the most modern version. By comparison, the Boeing 747-300 has range 12,400 km with 496 passengers, with 2 classes, has 199,158 litres fuel capacity, which gives a fuel consumption of 0.032 litres per passenger kilometer. The Boeing 747-400 can take 524 passengers (2 classes). Range 13,450 km and fuel capacity 216,840 litres, which gives a fuel consumption of 0.0308 litres per passenger kilometer.

So there is no great improvement from the Boeing 747 either.

The immediate question this raises is what has happened to the much-hyped efficiency improvements of the B787? The answer is simple. The B787 is smaller than the B777 and A380. As such, it loses economies of scale.

So the new technology simply allows a smaller plane to fly with the same seat efficiency of a larger one and with a more comfortable interior.

[Boeing claim the Dreamliner is 20% more fuel efficient. It is interesting that Boeing very rarely say what they are comparing the Dreamliner against. The last comparison available when the 20% fuel saving was being used was against the Boeing 767. This is the most comparable plane to the 787. It is about the same size, it is wide bodied and used for medium haul flights, i.e. London to New York. It is also a design that is now is 20 years old. So the idea that the 787 provides a 20% improvement over the most modern jets on long haul, which is where its primary market is, does not stand to any worthwhile scrutiny.]

[It is also important to note that when ever Boeing or Airlines are talk about the 20% improvements, they very rarely specify what measurements they are using.]

[There should be performance graphs available from the operating manuals of the planes which indicate the fuel requirements for various loads and ranges. These would be an upturned parabolla. So a very short haul flight is inefficient because of the over head of take off and landing. A very long haul flight is inefficient because of the energy needed to carry the fuel. There will be an optimum level somewhere between these two extremes. These graphs would be the best source of material, but they are not publicly available.]

But this was the business strategy. Boeing wanted to get the efficiency and range of a larger plane on a smaller plane to exploit the potential of the point-to-point transport model. This would enable the aviation industry to circumvent the restrictions of the major hubs such as Heathrow and continue to grow through exploitation of regional airports.

This business model is hubris on a grand scale. It flies in the face of all the platitudes of the aviation industry about their newfound concern for the environment. Flying thousands of B787s around the world in a point-to-point network is the most effective way to maximise carbon emissions and it ignores the economic realities of escalating fuel prices. [Though the Dreamliner is lighter, due to using carbon fibre rather than aluminium, these reductions in weight are dwarfed by the weight of the additional fuel that needs to be carried on very long haul flights].

If the aviation industry were genuinely concerned about carbon emissions, it would have used the technology in the B787 to design slower planes. By way of comparison, the Lockheed Constellation of the 1940's had an efficiency of 0.0334 litres/passenger km.


Salina Patel - Skyport Heathrow - 1 May 2012

TOXIC cabin air is a real threat to airline passengers and flight crew according to research by an aviation industry pressure group.

The Global Cabin Air Quality Executive (GCAQE) which represents 150,000 crew and turbine workers globally, is growing increasingly concerned of European regulators ignoring the threat of contaminated cabin air. Despite alarming evidence which shows health and safety of travellers is at risk from 'bleed air', the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) believes there is no problem.

Dr Susan Michaelis, GCAQE head of research, said: "We had hoped EASA would look at the evidence objectively, however, we can clearly see this has not occurred. This problem has gone on unaddressed for 60 years and is even expected to get worse with increased engine operating temperatures in modern aircraft, which are an attributing factor to the toxicity of the oils."

With the exception of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, all commercial jet aircraft are designed to take unfiltered breathing air for passengers and crews directly from the engines, known as 'bleed air'.

The GCAQE holds evidence from around the world dating back from the 1950s to the present day of jet oils leaking into the aircraft air supply. There are reported cases of crew impairment and incapacitation inflight as a result of contaminated air exposure; and findings from accident bureaus including the UK's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).

In a recent case, the German Federal Bureau of Aircraft Accident Investigation (BFU) reported pilot partial incapacitation after take off in November 2011, with fumes evident. The organophosphate TOCP was found in the pilot's blood after flight.

However, the EASA said it has addressed concerns through reviews of existing and on-going research and concluded based on currently available reports and evidences, there is no safety case to justify an immediate rule making action, as a relationship between the reported health symptoms and oil/hydraulic fluid contamination has not been established.

An EASA spokesman said: "As there is no conclusive scientific evidence available, EASA is not able to justify a rule making task to change the existing designs or certification specifications. Although the Agency has not found a justification to launch a regulatory change activity, this topic is continuously monitored, and some recommendations were provided to further improve the knowledge on exposure health issues and on technologies for bleed air filtering monitoring."


BAA has denied allegations its advertising campaign on expansion
is misleading or an attempt to influence the government's aviation policy

Salina Patel - Skyport Heathrow Online - 14 April 2012

The adverts which have been spread across the London Underground contain a link between airports and economic growth in the UK, a claim AirportWatch chairman John Stewart says is without foundation. His group has made a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) that the airport operator's campaign is a calculated attempt to mislead the public. It claims the adverts falsely represents the case for aviation expansion by implying any restriction will damage the UK's economic recovery.

A BAA spokesman said: "Only HACAN would try to suggest that there's not a link between airports and economic growth. Of course it matters to our economy whether the UK is connected to fast-growing economies like China, India and Brazil. A recent report by Frontier Economics said that a lack of connections to emerging markets could cost Britain £14billion over the next 10 years. That's lost jobs, trade and investment to the UK."

Mr Stewart, also chairman of HACAN, said: "There is no evidence whatsoever that the UK economy will suffer if airport growth is constrained. BAA is simply pursuing its own corporate interests to lobby on a critical political decision, and is doing so in a way that is both misleading and detrimental to the long term interests of the wider public. These wildly misleading adverts deliberately ignore any mention of the climate change responsibilities that the aviation industry should be adhering to and the implications of allowing an expansive aviation policy. They are only interested in business as usual. The ASA must take robust action against this type of corporate propaganda."

It cited the report "Too Dirty for Business?" published by HACAN, which says Heathrow has more flights to key destinations than rivals Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt. The government's own forecasts show there is enough capacity to serve the needs of London and the south east until 2030. The government's consultation process in the run-up to the launch of a new draft White Paper on aviation is expected later this summer.

The ASA confirmed it received a complaint from HACAN regarding a poster ad produced by BAA and is currently looking into whether there are grounds for an investigation.


Doug Cameron - Dow Jones Newswires - 23 April 2012

The head of the U.K.'s largest airport operator said London Heathrow can remain competitive with two runways for at least a decade, despite concerns voiced by some airline and business leaders that a lack of expansion could see it lose ground to other hubs.

Heathrow is the world's busiest airport by international passengers and its runways operate at full capacity, but calls from airlines and business lobby groups for the construction of a third runway have been rejected on environmental grounds by the U.K. government. "I think we can defend that position with two runways for 10 to 15 years," said Colin Matthews, chief executive of BAA, which owns Heathrow and four other U.K. airports.

Matthews said in an interview that the expanding presence of British Airways as Heathrow's largest operator alongside its partners in the Oneworld airline marketing alliance, as well as London's huge business and leisure market, gives it an advantage over rival airports in continental Europe such as Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam with more leeway to expand. His comments contrast with the stark warnings from some airline and business leaders that Heathrow risks losing its role as a pre-eminent global hub because of congestion, potentially damaging the broader U.K. economy.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (IAG.LN), on Monday called the U.K. government "schizophrenic" for not expanding Heathrow, while pushing a broader agenda that sought to promote tourism and investment. Matthews said BAA had to walk a "tightrope" in promoting and upgrading Heathrow at a time when many of its largest customers were warning of the threats to its global status, with fast-growing airports in the Middle East adding to the pressure from those in continental Europe.

The company has urged the U.K. government to consider all options for expanding capacity in southeast England, including adding a third runway at Heathrow. His comments came as BAA agreed to sell Edinburgh airport to Global Infrastructure Partners LLC, or GIP, for GBP807.2 million after a hotly contested auction. BAA was forced by government regulators to reduce its U.K. holdings because of competition concerns. It is battling an effort to force it to sell Stansted airport, north of London.

The specialist airport fund already controls Gatwick, London's smaller gateway, and has a 75% stake in the downtown City Airport, and fended off J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.'s (JPM) global asset management division in the closing stages with final bids submitted last week. Matthews said BAA had secured a "good price" for Edinburgh, but its focus remained on improving the customer experience at Heathrow.

The airport is often criticized in industry surveys for its layout and facilities, and though Matthews acknowledged it had some "disadvantages," he said BAA is spending GBP1 billion a year on modernization. "We have a huge incentive to make the passenger experience better," he said.

Matthews said he was optimistic that BAA could reach a consensus with airlines over future charges at Heathrow, which unlike those at Edinburgh are heavily linked to investment in facilities and regulated by the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority. BAA will publish a business plan later this year setting out investment scenarios for the next five-year price review period. "I'm reasonably optimistic," said Matthews. "The discussions [with airlines] have got off to a decent start."

Congestion at Heathrow and its rich mix of business travelers has made its takeoff and landing slots the most prized - and expensive - in the industry. The slots are bought, sold and leased in an unofficial "gray" market, and Matthews predicted that trading activity would pick up after a four-year lull following BA's purchase of bmi, Heathrow's second-largest operator. The deal gives BA just over half of the airport's slots, and European Union regulators have required the airline to make some available to competitors.

Slot trading at Heathrow is conducted bilaterally between airlines rather than through BAA and peaked in 2007 when a new EU-U.S. aviation deal opened the airport to more carriers, leading Continental Airlines to pay a record GBP209 million for four pairs of slots. Activity has since decreased, though the tough financial conditions facing many airlines flying into Heathrow - and even the collapse of some carriers - highlights the value and liquidity of access to the airport.

"That's definitely going to pick up because of the bmi deal," said Matthews of the recent relative lull in trading.


Ministers must press ahead with an inquiry into a second runway at Gatwick or Stansted after last week slamming the door on Heathrow expansion, according to easyJet boss Carolyn McCall

Nathalie Thomas - Daily Telegraph - 24 April 2012

The head of the UK's largest airline by passenger numbers has weighed into the fierce debate on aviation policy after Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers last week scuppered hopes that the Government might be moderating its stance on allowing a third runway at Heathrow - Britain's only hub airport.

Ms McCall told the Telegraph it was "striking" how other European governments supported their airports while the UK was stuck in a "circular" debate about aviation capacity. "In Europe there is a stark contrast? there is no debate. In Amsterdam, the Government and airport is completely aligned about developing Schipol. In [Milan] Malpensa, they are continuing to grow. No one is debating 'should there be more capacity and should we have another runway?' There's just a real focus on the fact that air passengers bring money into the economy and they are really important for growth."

Speaking in Lisbon, where easyJet has launched its latest network base, Ms McCall said a second runway at either Gatwick or Stansted made the "most economic sense" in the medium term to solve the serious capacity problems in the South East. "Theresa Villiers has closed the door to Heathrow again, which I think clearly must be frustrating. From where we sit, we are very concerned that the options that are currently being debated are not real solutions to the capacity issues."

She stressed extra runways at Gatwick and Stansted "are the things that should be evaluated now". "It would make the most economic and environmental sense as you already have airports there and they are not in the centre of cities," she said. Ms McCall believes Stansted is "most ripe" for capacity development, even though it has suffered from dwindling passenger numbers.

The Transport Secretary last week implacably ruled out a third runway for Heathrow but said the Government would be willing to assess all other options - including a new hub airport on the Thames Estuary. A White Paper setting out the Coalition's position, which had been due in March, will be published by the summer.

Gatwick, the world's biggest single runway airport, has staked its claim to become a rival gateway to Heathrow. But Heathrow's owner BAA and global airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic argue the UK Government needs to recognise the importance of its hub status, providing an important base for transfer passengers.

Ms McCall said it was critical that the UK remains an "important gateway" but argued there was an "overemphasis" on the hub. "About 80pc of passengers in the UK don't have any benefit from the hub," she said.

The former media executive, who joined easyJet in 2010, also echoed concerns about immigration bottlenecks at the UK's busiest airports. Willie Walsh, head of British Airways' parent company, has warned long delays at immigration are costing the country investment and jobs as they deter business travellers. Ms McCall said immigration queues are among passengers' chief complaints when they come to the UK. "It's a real problem that we are dealing with all of the time," she said.


Two things are clear about this Government's policy on airports ?
or, more precisely, lack of one. The potential expansion of
Gatwick and Stansted is back on the agenda.

Alistair Osborne - Daily Telegraph - 18 April 2012

First, that the Cabinet is split. Second, that the Coalition plans to waste this whole parliament disappearing up its own fuselage - rather than make any decisions. That much became even clearer on Wednesday when Theresa Villiers taxied in with the ministerial equivalent of the holding pattern at Heathrow.

The Aviation Minister just about understands the problem, recognising that "Heathrow is pretty much full and Gatwick too is approaching capacity". But no way is she buying the line from British Airways and BAA (among others) that without new runways, Britain can't compete. "It's simply not the case that London's connectivity is falling off a cliff edge," she said.

How she squares that with the view of her Chancellor is anyone's guess. George Osborne chose last month's Budget to stress: "This country must confront the lack of airport capacity in the south east of England - we cannot cut ourselves off from the fastest growing cities in the world."

The fact is Osborne has never been sold on the Conservative's election pledge to "stop the third runway" at Heathrow and to "block plans for second runways at Stansted and Gatwick". By contrast, the latest Transport Secretary Justine Greening campaigned for her Putney seat on a "no third runway" ticket. Meantime, Villiers banged on about making Heathrow "better, not bigger" while linking it "to our high speed rail network" - yes, the same one that's yet to be built.

A third runway would be a resigning issue for either of them, which partly explains why Villiers ruled one out again on Wednesday - though Osborne and, lately David Cameron, seem far less categoric.

And, if not Heathrow, where? A mid-air loop-the-loop has put the potential expansion of Gatwick and Stansted back on the agenda. So the Government's choices are pretty straightforward. It could make better use of what we've got - including, say, expanding Manston in Kent, the home of the second longest runway after Heathrow. Or, build a new airport, such as in the Thames Estuary, assuming we've got a spare £50bn.

It's not hard. Instead, the best Villiers can offer is yet another consultation - on top of the previous 10 since Britain built its last full-length runway in 1946. She's set her sights on producing "an objective, thorough and evidence-based analysis of our connectivity needs and how best to meet them in a sustainable way". Maybe the planes could land on that.


News Carrentals Online - 19 April 2012

A third runway at Heathrow Airport has continued to be rejected by Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers, despite hopes by some members of the government that policy on the matter would change given that capacity is nearly full. This comes as a poll has revealed that the capacity constraints at the hub are causing airlines to take their business to other countries.

At a London conference this week, Villiers stressed that the government would look at all options to increase capacity in the South East except for a third runway at Heathrow Airport. The coalition has always been clear that it won't back this option. She noted that confirming this was actually one of its first acts as a government. The quality-of-life aspect with up to 22,000 more flights operating over the British capital every year would be huge, and there's no technological solution to ensure planes could be quiet enough in time to make the burden tolerable. There has to be another solution.

This message comes as a huge blow to the BAA, the operator of Heathrow, and airlines like Virgin Atlantic and British Airways - who have continuously warned the UK that it's losing investment and jobs because of the capacity constraints at the hub. The transport secretary's stance may possibly put the government into a legal battle with the BAA, which has warned that it could call for a judicial review if Heathrow Airport is the only option banned from an inquiry into how to solve the capacity problems in the UK.

On Tuesday, the BAA said that no options to provide new hub capacity are easy, but all of them should be on the table. It's important that big decisions follow due process, and seeking a judicial review is always an option if this doesn't happen. They expect the government to consider the pros and cons of every option carefully and hold a proper consultation before making any decisions.

This comes as BAA chief executive Colin Matthews revealed new research from the Board of Airline Representatives that shows 53% of foreign carriers are increasing the number of flights they operate out of other nations. This is because of a lack of take-off and landing slots available at Heathrow. At the same time, 86% of airlines said they would fly more from the UK if this issue was fixed. The BAA says the country is losing its competitive edge due to the passiveness of the government on expanding capacity. Heathrow serves 180 destinations compared to the 262 served by Frankfurt.

There have also been concerns raised about Chinese connections, and campaigners for Heathrow say there are seven major Chinese cities served by European airports, except London. However, Villiers has insisted that London's connectivity isn't falling off a cliff edge; although she did recognise that both Heathrow and Gatwick are operating at near full capacity. She says that the 3,000 flights a year to Hong Kong would show the UK leads the market in terms of Chinese connectivity if they have been included in statistics.

The transport secretary strongly indicated at the conference that the government will look into ways to use existing capacity more efficiently to target more strategically important routes for the UK economy. It's her hope to convince carriers like Virgin and British Airways that some short-haul routes can be replaced by other means of transportation - for example, high-speed rail - leaving those take-off and landing slots open for long-haul flights.


Isle of Grain site for £50bn project is in middle
of major flight paths for four London airports

Gwyn Topham, Transport Correspondent - The Guardian - 13 April 2012

A proposed airport in the Thames estuary would be in the "very worst spot" for the south-east's crowded airspace, according to the boss of Britain's air traffic control service, Nats. Richard Deakin, chief executive of Nats, said the architects of the Thames Hub airport had not contacted them beforehand to discuss its feasibility. Norman Foster and partners unveiled the blueprints of the £50bn project last November.

London mayor Boris Johnson has championed the idea of a Thames estuary hub in response to a growing clamour in the aviation industry and business for more capacity. The government has indicated that a much-anticipated consultation on aviation this summer will look at all options for airports except a third Heathrow runway, although the launch has been delayed until after the mayoral elections.

Deakin said the proposed site for the new airport, on the Isle of Grain, was directly under the convergence of major arrival and departure flight paths for four of London's five airports. Pointing to the Thames estuary on a map, he said: "The very worst spot you could put an airport is just about here." He said there were "serious challenges" to integrate an airport into that traffic pattern, and added: "We're a little surprised that none of the architects thought it worthwhile to have a little chat" with the air traffic controllers.

While Deakin conceded that "technically anything is possible", he said that beyond the well-documented risk of strikes from the thousands of birds found in the wetlands, the proximity of Amsterdam's Schiphol airport would also affect traffic patterns and force aircraft into more circuitous flight paths. Such flight paths would run counter to much of the work being done to reduce fuel consumption in air travel. Industry bodies such as Sustainable Aviation say significant cuts in aircraft CO2 emissions could be made by planning more direct, intelligent flight paths.

He said that from an air traffic control point of view, "the single biggest thing we could do to reduce CO2 in the UK is to build a third runway at Heathrow". Dakin claimed that the extra runway could cut the need for aircraft to hold in the skies before landing. "Heathrow holding is not about airspace - it's about lack of tarmac. I'm very confident you'd eliminate all the holding patterns in one go."

Pressure for new airport capacity has grown in recent months after intense lobbying from airport operators BAA and calls from within the Conservative party for the government to reconsider its opposition to the third runway - although a block on all airport expansion is explicitly laid out in the coalition agreement.

Last month the prime minister apparently gave fresh impetus to Boris Johnson's vision by announcing he would "examine the case for an estuary airport". David Cameron said Britain needed "to retain our status as a key global hub for air travel, not just a feeder route to bigger airports elsewhere, in Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Dubai".

The owners of Heathrow argue that there is a need for more capacity at a British "hub" airport - one big enough to allow enough connecting flights and transfer flights to make long-haul routes economically viable. However, they believe - and the Department for Transport's own analysis has concluded - that there is only room for one such hub airport in the UK, meaning that any Thames estuary airport would mean the closure of Heathrow and loss or relocation of 70,000 jobs in the M4 corridor.

Johnson's original "Boris Island" plan was for an airport at Shivering Sands, a few miles east of Foster's planned hub. He has said Heathrow is "fundamentally in the wrong place". Campaigners question the need for extra capacity. Environmentalists meanwhile have warned that any Thames estuary airport development would spell disaster for local birdlife, including protected species.

The Foster scheme, at the easternmost point of the Hoo peninsula, would incorporate a £6bn new Thames barrier crossing and a £20bn four-track, high-speed passenger and freight orbital railway around London, as well as new roads to serve an airport with four runways capable of handling 150 million passengers every year.

A spokesperson for Foster and Partners said that one of its architects, Huw Thomas, along with two members of the Halcrow engineering group collaborating on the project had since visited Nats' Swanwick HQ, in December 2011.

A DfT spokesperson said: "In the summer we will consult on an overarching sustainable framework for UK aviation and alongside this we will publish a call for evidence on maintaining effective UK hub airport connectivity. The coalition's position regarding Heathrow has not changed."


The number of night flights in and out of Heathrow could be increased
as ministers consider a plea to allow the Airbus A380 superjumbo
to operate into the early hours of the morning

David Millward, Transport Editor - Daily Telegraph - 10 April 2012

Current restrictions on night flights expire in 2014 and a consultation on any changes will be launched later this year. Emirates, the biggest operator of the A380, with 20 in its fleet, says the aircraft could be operated in and out of Heathrow during the current 1am to 4am curfew. By altering the descent of what even aviation critics admit is a quiet aircraft, Emirates believes that additional services could be offered without disturbing residents who live nearby.

With Heathrow already operating 1,300 flights a day, the Gulf carrier believes the only way to expand capacity is to extend the hours of operation. Allowing additional night flights is certain to provoke a wave of protests from local residents including the constituents of Justine Greening, the Transport Secretary, in Putney, west London.

But the Emirates proposals would entail a steeper descent, which would see the aircraft remaining at a higher altitude for longer, minimising noise. The airline's plans, if approved, would also see the plane land further along the runway. This in turn would change the trajectory, keeping the plane further away from people who live on the fringes of the airport. Although the blueprint has been drawn up by Emirates, it will be watched closely by other airlines as they introduce the A380 into their fleets.

Singapore Airlines, for example, has just announced that its three daily Heathrow services will all use A380s, work has also just begun on the first of British Airways' superjumbos, which is due to begin operation next year.

Heathrow has given a cautious welcome to the Emirates initiative. "Advances in technology are delivering quieter aircraft and the industry is looking at innovative ways of operating those aircraft to further reduce noise," a spokesman said. "We would encourage the Government to consider these new possibilities."

However John Stewart who runs the Heathrow Association for the control of aircraft noise, was sceptical. "The A380 is undoubtedly quieter than other large aircraft but not quiet enough to prevent it being a nuisance at night," he said. "It will still wake up a lot of people up. It would be a big surprise if the current ministers at the Department for Transport were to liberalise the night flight regime at Heathrow. They know it would cause uproar in West London and beyond."

A spokesman for the Department for Transport added: "Noise abatement procedures will be considered in the draft aviation policy framework to be published for consultation in the summer, with the intention to finalise this document next spring. The current night noise regime at Heathrow has been extended for a period of two years until 2014. We will launch a first stage consultation later this year which will seek detailed evidence - and we will welcome any contributions to this debate."


Manston airport in Kent could help meet aviation capacity needs
in London, according to Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers

Ms Villiers told delegates at a transport conference the government did not support a third runway at Heathrow. She said that another solution was needed and that "some would like to see Manston play a role in meeting our aviation capacity needs".

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale said: "This is very significant indeed." The Conservative MP said: "This is the first time that any senior transport minister has recognised the potential of Manston. We've been saying for a long time that, given the right rail links and good road links, there is no reason why Manston shouldn't play a major role in aviation in the south east. I know the Secretary of State has taken on board the fact the need is now. We are losing business to Holland, we are losing business to France - we can't wait 20 years - Manson is there now and Justine Greening and Theresa Villiers have recognised that."

Charles Buchanan, chief executive of Manston airport in Thanet, said that, in the long term, building a new infrastructure would mean a major airport capacity increase could take about 20 years. He said that the short term solution to the aviation capacity problem would be to develop the existing infrastructure in the south east, particularly Manston airport, which already has the ability to accommodate intercontinental flights and also has a long runway.

The coalition government is currently consulting on the future of aviation policy and Ms Villiers was speaking at the Transport Times conference, on Wednesday, looking at A New Strategy for UK Aviation - The Case for New Hub Capacity. The government plans to publish its aviation review in the summer.


Report casts doubt on Caroline Spelman's claim that
majority of UK air pollution comes from continental Europe

John Vidal, Environment Editor - The Guardian - 20 April 2012

Air pollution is prematurely killing 13,000 people a year in Britain compared with fewer than 2,000 deaths a year from road accidents, a major study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has concluded. Of these, cars and lorries are thought to be responsible for 7,000 deaths, aviation almost 2,000, power plants 1,700 with the rest coming from shipping, factories and domestic emissions.

But the report suggested that environment secretary Caroline Spelman may have been wrong to say earlier this year that the most likely cause of a major air pollution event at the London Olympic games in August would come from dirty air drifting in from the continent. The report calculated that about 60% of the polluted air breathed by Britons comes from domestic sources, the rest coming from air crossing the channel from mainland Europe.

The researchers estimated for the first time that air polluted outside Britain may kill 6,000 people a year prematurely, but dirty British air drifting the other way is killing 3,100 people a year in mainland Europe.

"One-third of premature mortalities in the UK caused by combustion emissions are due to emissions from other EU member states, and UK combustion emissions cause one third again as many early deaths in the rest of the EU as they do in the UK," says the report.

The findings also pinpointed where most of the deaths happen: 2,200 a year in Greater London, 630 in both Greater Manchester and West Midlands and more than 1,000 across all Yorkshire and Humberside. The study is embarrassing for the government which is coming under the international spotlight this summer ahead of the Olympics and the Queen's diamond jubilee. Air pollution in London hit record levels last month in the heatwave and Britain already faces EU fines for consistently breaching air pollution laws.

Earlier this year, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) claimed that the costs of meeting EU pollution targets may not match the benefits, but the MIT study estimated that air pollution was costing at least £6bn a year and as much as £60bn. Most of it is from the cardiac and respiratory diseases caused by inhaling the minute sooty particles emitted from car exhausts.

Britain has some of the worst air pollution in Europe, but has consistently failed to meet targets and timetables to reduce both the quantity of soot in the London air (known as PM10s) and of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), a gas emitted mainly from burning diesel fuel. Faced with draconian European fines, it has argued successfully in Europe that it needs more time to meet deadlines.

The authors proposed that car makers reduce the amount of black carbon emitted in car exhausts and try to reduce nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, but say that investment in public transport, or taking cars off the road altogether - as suggested by Green party mayoral candidate Jenny Jones - would be most effective. They used data provided by the British government for 2005 and simulated temperature and wind fields using a weather research and forecasting model similar to those used to predict short-term weather.

A Defra spokeswoman said: "We want to keep improving air quality and reduce the impact it can have on human health and the environment. Our air quality has improved significantly in recent decades and is now generally very good, and almost all of the UK meets EU air quality limits for all pollutants. There are some limited areas where air pollution remains an issue but that's being dealt with by the air quality plans, which set out all the important work being done at national, regional and local levels to make sure we meet EU limits as soon as we can."


BRITISH airline bosses yesterday saw the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner
close up as they prepare to take delivery of the eco-friendly aircraft
that its American makers boast will transform air travel

Daily Express Reporter - 24 April 2012

Making its first visit to the UK, the plane landed at Heathrow ahead of trips to Manchester and Glasgow this week. The 787 burns 20 per cent less fuel than existing planes, makes 60 per cent less noise and, says Boeing, will reduce jetlag as up to 290 passengers enjoy cleaner air and a smoother ride.

Thomson Airways will be the first UK airline to fly the aircraft. It is part of the holiday group owned by TUI Travel which has 13 on order. Managing director Chris Browne said: "We will be flying the aircraft in our summer 2013 programme from four UK airports - giving holidaymakers from across the country the chance to travel on this amazing new aircraft."

Also inspecting the Dreamliner were Willie Walsh, chief of IAG, owner of British Airways, which has 24 on order and Steve Ridgway, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, which will fly 16.

OUR COMMENT: Much has been expected from this aircraft with regard to a better environmental performance. Let's have some real figures now for noise and emissions!

Pat Dale


Stansted airport is urging the government to improve the train link
between central London and the airport as a way to boost the economy

Rose Jacobs - Financial Times - 15 April 2012

Where Heathrow is full and Gatwick more than three-quarters full, Britain's third-biggest airport by passenger numbers processes only 18m a year of the 35m it could handle. The journey time to London has put off some customers, says Nick Barton, managing director. Half of those who use Stansted arrive by public transport - the highest portion of any big UK airport.

If journey times between London's Liverpool Street Station and Stansted could be reduced from at least 45 minutes to half an hour, he argues, it could attract more airlines and a higher inflow of Europeans visiting both for business and leisure.

"Connectivity between airport and financial destination is critical," Mr Barton told the FT. His team is urging Network Rail, the owner of Britain's rail infrastructure, to include a commitment to cutting the journey time in its investment plan for the next five years, a programme due to be adopted in whole or in part by the Department for Transport this July.

The timing coincides with the government's aviation review, which is set to address the problem of limited airport capacity in the south-east of England. Better use of Stansted, which caters mostly to low-cost carriers, would only go some way towards easing the pressure on Heathrow, a hub airport dependent on transfer passengers. But Mr Barton argues that adding more routes at Stansted, which sits in a region rich with small and medium-sized businesses, would boost trade between the UK and the rest of Europe.

Much of the 35-mile line between Liverpool Street Station and Stansted has just two tracks, one each for trains headed in and out; Mr Barton would like to see additional track laid to accommodate express trains, although he is open to other ways of bringing down the travel time to 30 minutes and offering greater reliability.

Network Rail said last week that while its five-year investment plan did not currently include upgrades to the Stansted Express, "it's not an inflexible process". The most recent double tracking project, between Swindon and Kemble, cost £3.6m a mile.

Any commitment by the government to improving the train link would also boost Stansted's asking price, should its owner, BAA - which also owns Heathrow - be forced by regulators to sell. The Competition Commission found in 2009 that the company dominated the market, and ordered the disposal of three airports, including Stansted. But BAA, which is owned by the Spanish infrastructure group Ferrovial, is fighting the ruling.


Stansted Airport bosses are urging the Government
to get on track and slash train times to London

Herts & Essex Observer - 20 April 2012

Managing director Nick Barton believes a 30-minute journey to London will boost the airport, benefit the economy and help local commuters.

The 35-mile journey from terminal to capital currently takes 45 minutes at an average speed of 45mph, so BAA is looking for central infrastructure investment. Rail cash is allocated in five-year blocks and the Government makes its announcements about the next funding period from 2014 this summer.

As he launched the 'Stansted in 30' campaign, this week Mr Barton said: "We want the rail industry and Government to act now to slash the Stansted to Liverpool Street journey to 30 minutes. Passengers and airlines tell us how important fast, reliable and quality rail services are. Whilst we have the newest trains serving any UK airport, we know there is still plenty more to do when it comes to improving speed and reliability."

"I'm very proud that nearly 49 per cent of our passengers already use public transport to get to and from the airport - the highest of any major UK airport. But we can't maintain or build on this success without major rail investment, which has to be included in the Government's policy announcement this summer."

The initiative has already won the support of Uttlesford's Conservative MP Sir Alan Haselhurst, who said: "I have been lobbying the Government and Network Rail for years to get their act together and do something about the speed, frequency and reliability of our rail services. The Government will publish its plans for rail investment up to the 2020s this summer. The time is right for ministers to recognise the needs of commuters, business and air passengers alike."

Business groups along the line have also got on board. Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said: "Better and faster rail access to London's airports such as Stansted creates the connectivity our international trading partners in European and emerging markets require to do business in London."

The present rail link between Stansted Airport and Liverpool Street was opened in 1991, at the same time as the terminal building. However, most of the line has just two tracks - one towards Stansted and one towards Liverpool Street, which means there are limited places for fast services to overtake slower locomotives. This can cause delays when the Stansted Express gets stuck behind freight trains, broken down trains or local stopping services. By contrast the Gatwick Express, with an average speed of 60mph, takes just 30 minutes to cover the 30 miles between the airport and London Victoria.

New train operator Greater Anglia has launched a training programme for staff aimed at improving customer service on the line out of London Liverpool Street. The 'Inspire' initiative is being rolled out across the company and over 600 frontline managers and workers will participate in the first phase in advance of this summer's London Olympics.


Letters - Financial Times - 19 April 2012

Sir, The managing director of Stansted airport is clearly not living on planet Earth if he thinks the journey time of the Stansted Express can be reduced from 45 minutes to 30 minutes ("Stansted seeks faster train link", April 16).

The convoluted exit from Liverpool Street involving the negotiation of sharp curves at Bethnal Green, Hackney Downs and Clapton at low speed militates against reducing the current journey time of 12 minutes to Tottenham Hale.

The journey time to the airport from Tottenham Hale could be reduced by more imaginative use of the existing passing loops at Broxbourne and Harlow Town and by greater flexibility in signalling practices than is currently the case. The reinstallation of long-removed loops at Cheshunt and Roydon could also help improve flexibility on the line.

However, although these measures might improve overall timing by perhaps five minutes, a reduction in overall journey time to 30 minutes could only be achieved by building a completely new line north of Harlow Town directly to the airport. Such a scheme was already mooted some years ago and rejected on the grounds of cost alone.

Alan N. Peachey
Bishop's Stortford, Herts, UK


Opodo Travel News - 18 April 2012

Airport transfer provider Terravision has launched a new coach service linking Stansted to Stratford in east London, the location that will serve as the hub of the 2012 Olympic Games.

With prices starting from £6 per adult one-way and journey times of approximately 40 minutes, the connection will be the cheapest and most efficient way of reaching the destination from Stansted, according to Terravision.

Coaches will be available approximately every 30 minutes during the day, with the first vehicle setting off from Stratford at 02:25 and returning from the airport at 03:40. The last service from Stansted will leave at 00:50.

Yakuta Rajabali, vice president of the Terravision Group, said the company decided to introduce the new transport option after spotting a gap in the market. "The service will continue to run after the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and will provide a direct route to London Stansted airport for those living in east London," she added.

Tansfers can be booked in advance or arranged at one of the company's dedicated airport ticket offices.


Stansted has been named by passengers as the world's
best low-cost airport for the second year running

Saffron Walden Reporter - 20 April 2012

The Uttlesford transport hub received the accolade at the Skytrax 2012 World Airport Awards in Vienna yesterday (April 19). Edward Plaisted of Skytrax said: "We congratulate Stansted on winning the award for Best Low-Cost Airport for the second successive year. This is a fantastic achievement in what is an increasingly competitive market."

"Passengers were positive about the core product and service at London Stansted Airport, and both the staff and management should be justly proud of this success."

Around 12 million travellers from over 160 countries took part in the world's largest, annual airport passenger satisfaction survey to decide the winners. The survey evaluated the total passenger experience across 39 airport service and product features, from arrival at an airport, through transit and departure processes to the boarding gate.

There was also good news for another UK airport, with London Luton named runner-up. Brussels Charleroi took 3rd place and the Kuala Lumpur LCCT 4th. Frankfurt Hahn Airport completed the top five.


Ryanair prepared to take stake in Stansted

Rose Jacobs - Financial Times - 18 April 2012

Ryanair would be open to taking a stake in Stansted airport if prospective owners wanted the reassurance of a partnership with the airport's biggest customer, said Michael O'Leary, the low-cost carrier's chief executive, on Tuesday.

While London?s third-biggest airport by passenger numbers is not yet up for sale, regulators have ordered owner BAA to dispose of it, assuming the company's final appeal against a 2009 Competition Commission ruling is rejected.

Stansted could attract significant interest, particularly if the government decides a new runway there is the solution to the south-east's air capacity woes. Stansted currently operates at half capacity, a situation Mr O'Leary blames on BAA doubling fees in recent years, thus driving away airline customers. "We've talked to a number of interested bidders, and some are interested in Ryanair as a minority partner," said Mr O'Leary. "It's not something we want to do, but if a consortium wants us in as a shareholder we would consider it." Ryanair flights constitute three-quarters of Stansted's business.

Mr O'Leary also hit out at Stansted's recent plea to the government to invest in the airport's rail link to central London, with the goal of reducing journey times to 30 minutes from at least 45. "We have not received one letter from one customer complaining about the train," he said. "We don't need the UK government wasting money on spurious infrastructure."

Stansted's passenger numbers have fallen from 24m in 2007 to 18m last year, a decline it blames on wider economic decline and its high exposure to leisure travellers. But Mr O'Leary pointed out that low-cost carriers saw growth in that period.


Climate change committee says that continuation of
exclusion would be a watering down of carbon goals

Fiona Harvey, Environment Correspondent - The Guardian - 5 April 2012

The government's green credentials will be put to a "key test" on Thursday, as ministers will be urged by their advisers to include greenhouse gas emissions from aviation and shipping in the UK's carbon targets. If airlines and container ships are included, the task of meeting the targets is made much harder. These two large and growing sources of emissions are currently excluded from the goals under a technicality.

David Kennedy, the chief executive of the Committee on Climate Change, challenged ministers to include the sectors in order to ensure the UK is meeting international obligations in spirit as well as in the letter of the law. "This will be a key test for the government," Kennedy said. "If we don't include these sectors, that would in effect be a lowering of the UK's carbon targets."

The issue is one of acute political sensitivity, because politicians appear reluctant to jeopardise the rise of low-cost airlines offering cheap flights. Within the Conservative party ranks, it is likely to be particularly controversial given the increasingly open climate scepticism of many Tory MPs.

Kennedy said he was aware of the potential for a political storm over his proposals, but said that if ministers chose not to accept the report's advice, it would mean they were watering down the UK's carbon targets.

He said that including aviation emissions need not mean fewer or more expensive flights - a key consideration as thousands of holidaymakers take budget flights over the Easter break. The aviation sector could still expand without punitive costs being passed on to consumers, as long as emissions from other sectors - such as residential buildings, energy generation and industry - are cut in line with long-term goals.

"This has no effect on aviation expansion," said Kennedy, including plans for new airports or a third runway at Heathrow. In part, this is because the UK's current climate targets have been drawn up with an eye to the possible inclusion of these sectors at a later date, so the targets for the rest of the economy have been made to compensate for this. However, if the two sectors are included, it would mean that the equivalent amount of carbon emissions allowable in the period 2023-2027 would have to rise from 1950 megatonnes to 2150 megatonnes.

Under the Climate Change Act, ministers must decide by the end of 2012 whether to include aviation and shipping emissions in the UK's long-term targets, which require emissions to be cut by 80% by 2050.

When the act was passed in 2008, aviation and shipping were excluded because they are not counted in international targets, such as those in force under the United Nations' agreements, including the Kyoto protocol. Historically, these emissions have been ignored because of the difficulty of apportioning them to different countries, and because of the danger that transport companies could try to evade any restrictions, for instance by choosing different ports. But these sectors account for a rising proportion of global greenhouse gas emissions, as international trade increases.

The European Union has moved to include aviation emissions under its flagship emissions trading scheme, but has faced fierce opposition from airlines in the US, China, India and other countries. Plans to include shipping under the trading system were shelved, in light of the effort needed to ensure the problems over aviation can be solved.

A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: "The government welcomes this report, which is critical to informing the decision over how to account for international aviation and shipping emissions domestically. We will consider this advice carefully in reaching our decision which is due by the end of this year as set out in the Climate Change Act 2008."


Full steam ahead: the country's place as the 13th biggest
greenhouse gas emitter has prompted a rethink

Jim Pickard and Pilita Clark - Financial Times - 8 April 2012

Britain will push to deepen the European Union's 2020 carbon reduction targets at talks in Denmark next week in a sign of renewed government commitment to the fight against global warming.

The UK will seek a 30 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels, an increase from the 20 per cent target at present, Greg Barker, climate change minister, told the Financial Times in an interview. An informal April 19 meeting, to take place in Horsens in eastern Denmark, aims to offer ministers the opportunity to have "an open and frank debate" about the world's largest emissions trading scheme

Mr Barker said tougher emissions reduction targets were needed if the European emissions trading system was to fulfil its aim of encouraging investment in low-carbon energy sources.

Prices in the world's largest carbon market have plummeted more than 60 per cent in the past 12 months as the weak eurozone economy exacerbates a glut in the supply of traded allowances. This has prompted mounting calls for intervention to prop up the market, including the possibility of deepening emission targets for 2020 and beyond.

"We are working patiently and quietly behind the scenes with EU partners to convince them of the strong economic as well as environmental reasons why we should go for 30 per cent rather than 20 per cent," said Mr Barker. "I think [securing a 30 per cent target is] by no means out of the question."

He said he understood why some countries, led by Poland, were opposed to deeper reductions and promised the UK would avoid "heckling" or "lecturing from the pulpit". But he added: "A strong price of carbon would negate the need for other government intervention." His vocal support for tougher emissions cuts appeared to mark a step back towards the strong environmental agenda promoted by David Cameron in his early years as Conservative leader.

Critics have accused the government of backsliding on its green commitments in recent months as economic concerns have taken precedence. However, Mr Barker said Britain was on course "to comfortably exceed" the EU's 20 per cent target for emissions reduction. Data released last month showed that UK emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, have plunged to their lowest levels since records began more than 40 years ago, amid sluggish industrial activity and greater dependence on nuclear power.

"We need to keep the momentum going and send those clear signals to industry which is wanting to invest in a low carbon future," said Mr Barker. Separately, he said he would not necessarily oppose expansion of aviation capacity in the south-east of the country, an issue which has been the subject of squabbles between the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition partners.

The government has ruled out new runways at Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick but has hinted it might reconsider expanding the latter two airports. "Aviation policy is obviously linked to our climate targets, but the most effective way of ensuring that we have efficient and viable airports isn't necessary directly linked to our emissions targets," said Mr Barker.

"You could have a new airport without necessarily breaking our targets for emissions from aviation. It's what happens in the air not what happens on the ground that counts for aviation."


Air passenger duty (APD) has risen by 8%, as announced
by the government in the Autumn Statement last year

BBC News - 1 April 2012

For short-haul flights, the tax has increased from £12 to £13. For long-haul flights of more than 4,000 miles, it has gone up from £85 to £92. In light of the increase, airlines called on the Treasury to review the impact on "hard working families".

A Treasury minister said the majority of passengers will only pay an extra £1 as a result of the rise. Also as of 1 April, corporation tax in the UK falls by 1% to 24%. The changes in APD will also see it extended to private business jets for the first time.

'Tax review'

In a joint statement the bosses of Easyjet, British Airways owner IAG, Ryanair and Virgin Atlantic said the increase would "hit millions of hard-working families and damage the wider economy". "We urge [Chancellor] George Osborne to make APD the first tax to be examined under the Treasury's new review of the wider impacts of taxation on the economy," they said.

They added that further planned rises in the tax before 2016 would mean a family of four paying £500 in tax to fly economy class to Australia. In 2005, they said, the same family would have paid £80.

Sir Richard Branson, who owns Virgin Atlantic, told the BBC increasing the tax might put some people off visiting the UK. "Tax is all very well when it's not actually costing the country money and I think it's getting to a stage where it's actually going to cost the country money," he said. The business group the CBI has also called for a lower rise in APD. The government defended the rise by saying it had frozen APD last year. "Most passengers pay only a pound more on their flights as a result of the rise," said Economic Secretary to the Treasury Chloe Smith. "We have made aviation tax fairer by bringing private business jets in for the first time. "We were able to take action to freeze APD last year and we have been able to be clear about what will then happen to it this year - I think that does represent a fair deal for passengers and I think it does also represent a fair deal for businesses, who are today enjoying a historically low rate of corporation tax," she said. There are four bands of APD. Tax on short-haul flights has gone up from £12 to £13. Longer flights up to 4,000 miles have seen an increase from £60 to £65, while tax on flights between 4,000 and 6,000 miles has risen from £75 to £81. APD on flights above 6,000 miles has increased from £85 to £92. All these figures refer to economy class flights; business class passengers pay more. OUR COMMENT: Special pleading again - and airlines still pay less for their fuel.

Pat Dale


Although Stansted can vary what it charges,
it suffers from a reputation for high fees

Robert Lea, Industrial Editor - The Times - 7 April 2012

The collapse in the number of passengers using Stansted during the economic downturn has prompted London's third airport to make a plea to the Civil Aviation Authority to set it free from regulation.

Bosses at the airport have told The Times that releasing Stansted from the shackles of CAA regulation would allow it to double the number of passengers it can handle to 36 million. The ability to manage that many passengers would, the airport says, help to alleviate congestion at London's airports, where Heathrow is full and Gatwick has growth constraints.

The number of passengers passing through Stansted has fallen by 25 per cent between 2007 - the last full year before the onset of the banking crisis and European recession - and 2011. Figures for this year indicate that passenger numbers are down 32 per cent from five years ago. Those statistics - plus a losing battle with Gatwick for airlines, news of renewed plans for expansion at Luton and the emergence of another London rival in Southend, has led Stansted to approach the CAA.

Nick Barton, the managing director of Stansted, told The Times: "Stansted should be competing on a level playing field. Competition is the simplest and best way of keeping costs down for passengers and airlines. There is compelling evidence that Stansted operates in a very competitive market, both in the UK and in Europe."

Stansted's take-off and landing charges are regulated by the CAA. While the airport can vary its charges, it suffers from a reputation - fuelled by criticism from its biggest customers Ryanair and easyJet - for high charges. It claims that CAA regulation costs it £20,000 a week, a bill that is passed on both to airlines and passengers.

Stansted's petition to the CAA will be contentious. The airport is owned by BAA, the operator of Heathrow, despite rulings by both the Competition Commission and the Competition Appeal Tribunal that BAA must sell the airport. It has already been forced to sell Gatwick and, under duress, is disposing of Edinburgh airport. However, it is in a legal battle to overturn the competition authorities' rulings.

Mr Barton says that the ownership question is clouding the issue. He says that the CAA's regulation of Stansted is based on the regulator's assumption that the airport retains "substantial market power". That designation was unchallenged during Stansted's meteoric rise. Between 2002 and 2007, the number of passengers grew by 50 per cent to 24 million. Such growth led BAA to hatch plans for a new runway, long since ditched under intense opposition.

However, Mr Barton claims that with the number of passengers falling to 18 million, what market power it has is not substantial. He says that Stansted is in intense market competition with its nearest neighbour, Luton, has lost flights to Gatwick, seen easyJet move services to Southend and been the victim of Ryanair moving investment to the Continent.

Deregulation would be supported by Ryanair, Stansted's biggest customer, but only if it came with divestment from BAA. Michael O'Leary, the Irish airline's chief executive, has long accused BAA of abusing its monopoly at Stansted and "enriching" itself at the expense of airlines and passengers. Stansted independence, he says, "would allow competition, consumer choice, lower costs and a better experience at London airports".

OUR COMMENT: Airports are part of the infrastructure of the local community, and residents have the right to expect to be protected from the many adverse effects of an airport's activities, notably noise. More airports, not fewer, should be subject to appropriate regulation as are all commercial and industrial businesses.

Pat Dale


Ministers are to study a contentious proposal to fly A380 superjumbos
in and out of London's Heathrow airport late at night

Andrew Parker - Financial Times - 9 April 2012

Emirates Airline, the Gulf carrier, says it can cut noise levels by flying the big airliners into Heathrow on steeper-than-normal descents, and landing them part way down the hub airport's runways, reducing the number of homes in west London affected by the din from jets. In return, the airline wants permission to fly the A380s in and out of Heathrow up to 1am, and restarting operations at 4am. The move would be fiercely opposed by campaigners, but could enable Emirates to increase the number of daily flights to its Dubai hub from five to seven.

The proposal could provide Heathrow with a means to increase significantly the number of flights from the airport, following the government's decision to rule out a third runway because of environmental concerns and a campaign by local residents objecting to jet noise.

The proposal is an example of how airlines are responding to the problem of how to increase capacity. Heathrow is operating at near full capacity on its existing runways, and BAA, the airport's owner, says the UK risks losing out on trade worth £14bn over the next decade because it is struggling to support aviation links to developing countries including China.

The government imposes tight restrictions on night flying at Heathrow between 11.30pm and 6am, when on average 18 aircraft arrive or depart from the airport. Most are inbound, long-haul flights and land between 4.30 and 6am.

But Tim Clark, Emirates Airline's president, told the Financial Times that the new breed of quieter wide-body jets, led by the A380, should benefit from a reduced night curfew, running from 1am to 4am. This could enable Heathrow to increase the number of flights beyond the current annual limit of 480,000. "If you can demonstrate that the noise profile of aircraft is that much quieter, why not look at that as a means of growing capacity at constrained hub airports?" said Mr Clark.

Heathrow is Europe's noisiest airport, according to the Civil Aviation Authority, reflecting how it is surrounded by west London's suburban sprawl. The A380, however, is a relatively quiet jet, even though it is the world's largest passenger aircraft. Data from National Air Traffic Services shows the A380 is quieter on takeoff and landing than most versions of the Boeing 747 jumbo, as well as some other, narrower aircraft that have a single aisle.

Emirates, the largest operator of the A380, estimates that steeper-than-normal descents into Heathrow would reduce the superjumbo's noise impact around Heathrow by 15 to 20 per cent. The airline has used flight simulators to develop a landing approach that involves the aircraft initially flying in at a 5.5-degree angle, rather than the normal 3 degrees. A similar method could be developed for ascents.

Second, landing the A380 part way down Heathrow's runways would provide greater respite to homes close to the airport. Rather than landing near the start of the 4km runways, as other jets do, the aircraft could touch down up to 1km along the strip. Mr Clark insisted Emirates' proposal was safe, although he accepted it would need further development with aircraft manufacturers, airports and regulators.

The CAA is looking at the case for aircraft to make steeper ascents and descents into airports as part of possible reforms of airspace usage, and is due to reach conclusions early next year.

The government announced last month that it would retain the existing night flying restrictions at Heathrow until 2014, but plans to consult on a new regime later this year. "We will launch a first stage consultation later this year which will seek detailed evidence, and we will welcome any contributions to this debate," said the Department for Transport. Mr Clark said he would submit Emirates' proposal.

Th transport department stressed that any change to the permitted 480,000 annual flights at Heathrow would require a planning application by BAA. BAA said: "Advances in technology are delivering quieter aircraft and the industry is looking seriously at innovative and better ways of operating aircraft to reduce noise over time. We would encourage the government to take into account these new possibilities."

However, the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise, which has led opposition to the airport's expansion, said it wanted a ban on night flights between 11pm and 6am. "The A380 is noticeably quieter compared with equivalent large planes, but at night it is not quiet enough," said the campaign group.


Reuters - 5 April 2012

Air traffic controllers, including Germany's DFS, and infrastructure funds are interested in the minority stake a group of airlines is selling in air traffic control authority NATS, the airlines said.

"There has certainly been quite a lot of active interest, either from infrastructure funds or other types of investment funds and one or two industry-related organisations such as DFS," said a spokesman for the Airline Group. "There is some urgency to do something this year," he said. DFS said the government had estimated the value of NATS as a whole at around 1 billion pounds.

NATS, which employs 5,000 people, provides air traffic control services for planes flying in UK airspace and part of the North Atlantic. It made pretax profit of 28 million pounds on revenue of 777 million pounds in the financial year ended in March 2011. The Airline Group - a consortium of seven British airlines including British Airways (ICAG.L) and Virgin VA.UL - owns a 42 percent stake in NATS.

Other owners include the British government (49 percent), its own staff (5 percent) and BAA (4 percent), the UK airport operator owned by Spain's Ferrovial (FER.MC).

If the government decides to sell parts of its stake too, the Airline Group would sell the assets jointly with the government, the spokesman said. "The outcome is quite uncertain at this point and the route to get there is very complicated," he said.

The government has said it wants to reduce its stake. The Airline Group has previously called for the government to keep a minimum holding of 25 percent to maintain British influence over European Union air traffic policy. The head of the German air traffic control authority, Dieter Kaden, confirmed he plans to bid, saying DFS aimed for "operational influence" at NATS.

OUR COMMENT: NATS operations ensure the safety of British skies and that of our neighbours. It is surely essential that it remains a British company and is not dominated by any sectional aviation interests. Can the CAA be an effective overseer?

Pat Dale


Air travel is the most damaging form of transport

Readers' Letters - The Observer - 1 April 2012

David Cameron once said that he wanted the coalition to be the "greenest government ever" ("Government to rethink over Heathrow third runway after warning from business leaders"). That is not going to happen by allowing an expansion of the most damaging form of transport of all. Planes use huge quantities of fuel, and cause more damage to the climate per litre used than other forms of transport. As well as carbon dioxide, aircraft engines emit nitrogen oxide and water vapour. Water vapour leads to contrails and more cirrus clouds, which warm the Earth's surface.

More air travel also means more traffic congestion around the airport, and more noise for local residents. Lobbyists are arguing that we are running out of airport capacity, but instead of increasing supply, we can reduce demand by taxing aviation fuel. This should curtail the absurdity of people flying to eastern Europe for stag weekends, and leave more capacity for business use.

Richard Mountfor
Hildenborough, Kent


Some debates just go on forever. In Britain anyway.

Alistair Osborne - The Telegraph - 7 April 2012

Maybe you recall Richard Harris, a former Conservative MP for Heston and Isleworth. He got all revved up about aircraft noise "becoming intolerable for a million people in south west Middlesex". His solution? To relocate London Airport - today's Heathrow - "to a coastal area better fitted to take some of these new, screaming monsters, which frighten the life out of our constituents".

Or perhaps you remember how the government dealt with the Noise Abatement Society when it fancied transferring Heathrow to the perhaps aptly named Foulness Island in the Thames Estuary? That plan, the then Aviation Secretary declared, would "constitute a major social upheaval with incalculable consequences", as he reeled off the impact on Heathrow's then mere 30,000 workforce.

Or possibly you have Ted Heath wedged in your memory. Specifically his aghast reaction to the news, when in opposition, that Labour was shelving plans for a new coastal airport at Maplin Sands. The former Tory prime minister acknowledged that the local residents might "express their thanks" before stressing: "There is beyond all this a very large national interest at stake both in personal communications and trade communications. I do not believe it can be in the national interest for the Secretary of State to indicate that we are to have the worst airport facilities available of any European, North American or Australasian country."

When was all this going on? In 1958, 1963 and 1974 respectively. Plus ça change, as they say in the airport business. Indeed, looking back, it's hard to disagree with Michael O'Leary, the Ryanair chief executive. "The UK's gone round and round in f****** circles for 50 years, while nothing's got done," is his pithy summary of British airport policy.

Today, we are having the same arguments, over whether the UK should, for example, expand what it has - namely Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted; or take the real deep-breath option and close Britain's premier airport to make way for a £50bn four-runway monster on the Thames Estuary, where the main things with wings just now are migrating birds.

But, with each delay, the stakes have risen - in terms of airport congestion, lost connectivity and diverted trade. That's what you get for half a century of political paralysis. Or, as O'Leary puts it: "There isn't an airport policy in the UK. It's the blind leading the blind."

Britain opened its last full-length runway in 1946 at what is now Heathrow. Since then, there have been at least 10 major studies into new runways and enough transport secretaries to fill an A380 super jumbo. The issue of a new airport has been examined in tortuous detail, not least in the run-up to 2003's White Paper. A parliamentary briefing note from late last year discloses: "A detailed site search considered some 400 possible locations in the South East and other parts of the country, including some offshore." Naturally, none was quite the ticket.

Now we are having another review. And, daft though that may sound, it's progress of sorts. The Conservative Party Manifesto for the 2010 election carried the unequivocal pledge to "stop the third runway" at Heathrow and "block plans for second runways at Stansted and Gatwick". The Coalition Agreement set that in Tarmac - egged on by the Lib Dems' anti-expansionist, green lobby.

The Tories calculated that building runways was a vote loser - not least at Heathrow, where the airport is encircled by about a dozen marginal seats. Indeed, Justine Greening, the Government's latest Transport Secretary, made blocking a third landing strip a pivotal part of the campaign for her Putney seat in south-west London. Meanwhile, David Cameron privately confessed to colleagues that his problem was that he would be the one blamed for sending the bulldozers into Sipson village, including demolishing a church, if the third runway is ever built.

The result was that the former shadow transport secretary and now aviation minister, Theresa Villiers, played up making "Heathrow airport better, not bigger", as she outlined plans to link it "directly to our high speed rail network, providing an alternative to thousands of flights".

That might have been vaguely plausible if the UK actually had a high-speed rail network, rather than a map with draft tracks on it which are years away from being built. But even then, legitimate questions could have been asked: not least, how is Britain supposed to compete when its continental rivals, free of Nimby qualms, are luring in the passengers and the business with new runways? Frankfurt has three, with one on the way; Paris Charles de Gaulle, four; and Amsterdam?s Schiphol, five.

No minister has admitted to any change of policy. But, under intense pressure from the business lobby, the Government's position is starting to shift. In January, it intimated that it was ready to consider the gargantuan Thames Estuary project, championed in different guises by the London Mayor, Boris Johnson, and the architect, Lord Foster.

And last month came the Budget. George Osborne has long been regarded as a closet opponent of the Government's no-runway stance and his Budget statement was widely perceived as a coming-out. "I believe this country must confront the lack of airport capacity in the south east of England - we cannot cut ourselves off from the fastest growing cities in the world," the Chancellor declared. Ashley Steel, KPMG's head of transport, was far from alone in concluding that, "at long last pressure from business and lobby groups appears to be weakening the Government's previous resolve. Finally there is hope for a third runway at Heathrow."

The Government now says it will produce a consultation document this summer, spanning both a UK hub airport and an "overarching aviation framework", including such things as aircraft emissions policies. By next spring, the aim is to have "a final policy in place". Officially, expanding Heathrow is not part of the Government's hub thinking. But nobody believes that. As Sir Richard Branson, the Virgin Atlantic founder, puts it: "An aviation review that specifically excludes Heathrow is no such review." Indeed, excluding our premier airport could leave the Government open to legal challenge from its owner, BAA. Heathrow employs 76,500 people within the perimeter fence and, according to Frontier Economics, supports 220,000 direct and indirect jobs from long-haul flying alone. The contribution to the UK's GDP is £11.1bn a year. So, critics say, it would be perverse, if not legally discriminatory, to cut Heathrow out of an airports study.

What will come of the review is another matter entirely. Ahead of the Budget, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways owner International Airlines Group, said: "I bet you that in 2050, BA will be flying from a two-runway airport at Heathrow" as he complained how ministers lacked the ambition "to take tough decisions in the interests of the long-term economic development of the UK".

O'Leary disagrees. "I remain convinced that in the life of this Parliament, they'll give the go-ahead for a third runway at Heathrow and a second at Stansted - and possibly a second at Gatwick," he says. "The pressure is building and the country is losing so much traffic. The French, the Dutch, the Germans and the Spanish, they're laughing at the Brits. They can't believe what's going on."

The gossip within political and aviation circles is that the first aim of the Government's review is simply to get "buy-in" from the electorate that Britain needs more capacity. Only then will it consider the far trickier issue of where to put it.

Even ardent opponents of airport expansion might struggle to claim Britain can muddle along forever. As the slightest snowfall repeatedly shows, Heathrow is so full that a few delayed planes can quickly spiral into chaos. Last year it handled 69.4m passengers or almost 15m more than its theoretical design capacity. At peak times, Gatwick and Stansted are pretty stretched too.

It's not as if the Government doesn't know this. Last year London's airports (also including Luton, London City and Southend) handled just under 134m passengers. Figures from the Department for Transport forecast that, in the south east, there will be "unconstrained capacity demand" for 300m passengers by 2030. Is the DfT expecting Southampton and Lydd to take up the slack?

One consequence of congestion, as Frontier Economics points out, is that continental European hubs have daily flights to 21 emerging market destinations, including Guangzhou, Manila and Jakarta, that Heathrow does not directly serve - a lack of connectivity that it believes already costs the UK £1.2bn a year in lost trade. A British Chambers of Commerce survey last month also found that 67pc of business leaders in Brazil, China, India, South Korea and Mexico were "more likely to do business" with France, Germany and Holland than the UK because of their better air connections.

As Walsh told The Sunday Telegraph: "I listen to the Chancellor talking about the importance of increased trade with China and then I say how are you going to get there? You can fly to Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai. But China is much more than that. I used to point people to the Budget speech in 2011 saying the UK is open for business - from Seattle to Shanghai. I said 'You're not. Your policies frustrate that'."

Sure you can quibble with some of the figures being put about by the airlines, BA and the business lobby but, for the Government, the message is getting far harder to ignore. Where, though, could the UK build a new runway?

If you listen to Lord Foster, and forget for a moment how much it costs, Thames Hub is pretty seductive. Developed by Foster + Partners, Halcrow and Volterra, it combines a £20bn airport capable of handling 150m passengers a year; a £20bn railway orbiting London; a new £6bn Thames barrier crossing harnessing carbon-free tidal power and around £4bn of other infrastructure improvements. The airport would be integrated with the east coast seaports and planned high-speed rail network, while the barrier would create new land for housing. The new infrastructure would also house power, water and telecoms networks, transforming the south east's utility capabilities. "We need to recapture the foresight and political courage of our 19th century forebears if we are to establish a modern transport and energy infrastructure in Britain for this century and beyond," is how Foster puts it.

But building such a visionary project is another thing altogether. Not just because of the cost. Or that it wouldn't be ready, probably, until 2025 - when Britain needs a much quicker fix. Or that there's a risk of bird strikes. Or the clashes with flight patterns over Schiphol. Or that, like every other Thames Estuary proposal, someone will complain about the danger of the SS Richard Montgomery, the US ship wrecked off the Isle of Sheppey in 1944 with a large cargo of explosives. Even if all those hurdles could be overcome, the project still has huge political risk. That's because, as Walsh argues: "Even if you build it, you've got no return unless you close Heathrow. If you leave it open and you build this new airport, we're going to stay at Heathrow."

For the more enlightened members of Cameron's Government, the penny has dropped. What is the riskier political option: expanding Heathrow or closing it, with all the social and economic upheaval that would entail?

Kwasi Kwarteng is MP for Spelthorne, whose constituency is right under the Heathrow flight path. "Doing nothing and thinking that somehow we are going to have trade links with all the fastest-growing parts of the world is naive and irresponsible," he says. "But anything we do has to consider the impact, not only on Heathrow but the whole M4 corridor. Why is GlaxoSmithKline in Brentford, or BSkyB in Osterley, or BP have a big office in Sunbury? It's not a coincidence."

All this explains why the Government is beginning to explore options that would allow it to expand traffic around Heathrow, while not only keeping within noise and emissions limits but, crucially, maintaining its election promise to build no more runways. It also explains why, for example, it recently asked consultants Mott MacDonald and accountants Ernst & Young to explore options for RAF Northolt, the airport used by the Queen that's about six miles north of Heathrow. Or why mixed mode - using both runways for take-offs and landings - may yet reappear on the agenda. That would raise aircraft movements to 525,000 a year from the current cap of 480,000.

As Walsh admits: "I have never said to anyone that if you build a third runway that's it and you'll never have to do anything else. But, if you build it, you buy yourself time."

Indeed, without demolishing the next door suburb of Hounslow, there'll never be room for a fourth runway. Which raises another key issue: how big an airport hub does Britain need? BA and BAA have long championed a big hub, arguing that it is only the influx of transfer passengers - roughly a third of the total at Heathrow - that makes flights to some destinations viable.

But the hubbing game is changing. Within the next decade, three Middle Eastern airlines - Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways - will own a massive chunk of the big aircraft flying routes around the world, not least the A380s. Their business models are based on vast desert airports, pulling traffic away from the European hubs. There is also growing demand from business for more frequent point-to-point services, such as BA's transatlantic shuttle, implying a simultaneous trend towards smaller aircraft.

How airline networks evolve will determine whether what Britain really needs is a big hub or simply more runway capacity. Once Gatwick is freed from an agreement preventing building a second runway before 2019, London could even have two hubs - just as New York has JFK and Newark airports.

O'Leary points out that, when BAA finally stops appealing over the forced sale of Stansted, "you'll have London's three main airports under separate owners all competing. They should all have another runway - it's the only way of keeping them all honest - you can build one at an existing airport for £125m". The upshot, he says, is that "you'd have a proper hub at Heathrow and two point-to-point airports, all competing, which will bring fares down. It's actually a very simple solution. You just need someone with the political balls to implement it".

OUR COMMENT: Three more runways! Only O'Leary could make that suggestion!

Pat Dale

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