| CAMPAIGN UPDATE - AT A GLANCE
A summary of current events in SSE's campaign against expansion of Stansted Airport
and other recent news related to the expansion of airports and aviation - 14 March 2015
Heathrow and Gatwick slog it out in runway battle
With the Airports Commission expected to deliver its final report on UK airport capacity just a few months from now, the battle between Heathrow and Gatwick to get the Commission's backing for a new runway is heating up, according to the Financial Times. The FT reports that Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye has even raised the possibility that Gatwick is simply running a spoiling campaign, promoting a second Gatwick runway simply to stymie his own plans for a third Heathrow runway. His comments have been dismissed as "disingenuous nonsense" by Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate but they demonstrate how tensions are rising ahead of the publication of the Commission's final report.
The Commission will publish its final report this summer, with all three shortlisted options at either Heathrow or Gatwick. Over the past year both airports have been running multi-million pound campaigns involving lavish press advertising, billboards, public relations and lobbying. Heathrow and Gatwick are expected to step up their marketing spending in the run-up to the election. Meanwhile, campaigners opposed to Heathrow and Gatwick expansion have written to the Airports Commission criticising the amount spent on the campaigns, claiming they are "subverting democracy".
Scrap Heathrow expansion, says Minister
Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary and former Transport Secretary, has called for plans for a third Heathrow runway to be halted and a second runway added at Gatwick as a "capacity stop-gap". Expanding Heathrow would compound the mistake of siting the UK's main hub airport in the wrong place, she said. Her comments, says The Times, have "opened the door to backing a [new] hub airport in the southeast".
Regional airports would suffer from Heathrow expansion
Expanding either Heathrow or Gatwick would largely re-distribute growth away from regional airports and other airports in the South East, a report by the Heathrow All Party Parliamentary Group has found. Under all ten forecasts produced by the Airports Commission, growth at regional airports outside the South East is reduced if a new runway is built compared with the baseline forecast. Growth at Heathrow would, the report found, be offset by up to a 28% loss in regional airport passengers, and around an 8% loss at other South East airports. The loss of growth at regional airports is particularly dramatic when carbon emissions are capped at 2005 levels in 2050. Also revealed is that Airports Commission figures point to overall passenger growth rate from 2030 being the same whether airports are expanded or not (at 1.4% per year), with similar forecasts of the total national numbers of flights and destinations served. Growth in the number of flights at Heathrow corresponds with a reduction of 207,000 regional flights a year to and from regional airports by 2050. See the AEF report.
Government should not bail out small UK airports
A report by the House of Commons Transport Committee concludes that the Government should not intervene to save small UK airports. This is despite the report concluding that small airports have a positive effect on the UK's economy and that Air Passenger Duty (APD) has a particularly negative impact upon small airports. The report notes that Bristol Filton, Coventry, Plymouth, Penzance and Manston airports have all closed completely or to commercial traffic over the past five years, whilst, over the same period of time Prestwick and Cardiff airports have been bailed out by the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, respectively. See the TTG Digital report.
Flight paths: SSE takes the fight to CAA
The consultation by NATS on changes to Stansted flight paths was flawed and the figures used for claimed benefits were unfair and inaccurate, says Stop Stansted Expansion. SSE has written to the CAA to express its dissatisfaction with the consultation and highlight its shortcomings. The changes would entail switching daytime flights from the existing south-east (Dover) departure routes to the existing east (Clacton) departure routes. The overall result would be more overflying and increased noise disturbance for local residents, says SSE. It is also pressing the CAA, under the Freedom of Information Act, to provide a copy of the NATS submission seeking CAA approval for the proposed flight path changes. This has now been taken to appeal because of the CAA's initial refusal to provide the information requested. When NATS first proposed changes to Stansted flight paths in June last year, SSE said that there must be clear and compelling benefits for local residents. However, despite objections to the proposed changes from more than 82% of those who responded to the consultation, NATS is now seeking approval from the Civil Aviation Authority to implement the changes towards the end of this year. SSE's letter to the CAA is available on request from firstname.lastname@example.org.
70% more passengers needed to reach permitted level
Passenger numbers at Stansted rose almost 25% in February compared to the same month last year and the number of flights increased by 14%. The airport handled a total of 20.6m passengers in the 12 months to February 2015 and 146,600 commercial flights. This growth has closed the gap between actual activity and the airport's planning permissions, but passenger numbers still have permission to grow 70% from their present level to the planning cap of 35 million passengers per annum (mppa), and flights still have permission to grow 80% to the planning cap of 264,000 per annum. February's passenger numbers were 8.7% below Stansted's busiest February, in 2007, and flights were 17.1% below the airport's busiest February in the same year.
Growth will stay within noise limits, says Stansted
Stansted Airport's Sustainable Development Plan (SDP) claims it can more than double passenger numbers to 45 million a year and do so within agreed noise and air quality limits, and within the existing boundary. The plan sets out how the airport could be developed over the next 10 to 15 years to make use of the existing single runway. Manchester Airports Group (MAG) says making use of Stansted's spare capacity has the potential to generate an extra 10,000 on-site jobs and £4.6 billion in additional economic activity for the region. The SDP, produced after public events and talks with local authorities and business groups, makes a commitment to work with councils and transport providers to develop business cases to secure investment in transport infrastructure, including the main West Anglia railway line, M11 and A120. SSE's response to the consultation on Stansted's SDP is available here and the final version of the SDP is here. See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
Long-haul by 2016?
Stansted Airport envisages long-haul flights to North America and the Middle East by next year, according to the airport's managing director, Andrew Harrison, who will visit the US in a bid to secure flights to business destinations such as New York. Last summer, Thomas Cook Airlines announced a limited number of flights from Stansted to US holiday destinations in July and August of this year. See the Cambridge News report.
Airline passengers up globally
The number of airline passengers carried globally increased by 5.9% last year, above the 10-year average growth rate of 5.6% and the 5.2% growth seen in 2013. Capacity rose 5.6% last year, with the result that the load factor climbed 0.2 percentage points to 79.7%. Over half of the growth in passenger travel occurred in emerging markets including Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. See the Travel Weekly report.
Ryanair to grow its fleet to 520 planes...
Ryanair, which accounts for four out of every five passengers at Stansted, has announced that its total passenger traffic in February was up 29% on the same month last year, with 5.8 million passengers carried compared to 4.5 million in February 2014. Ryanair's 12 month rolling total is now 89 million passengers, a 9% year-on-year increase. The Irish carrier has also issued its first ever Euro Bond, raising €850m to help fund its purchase of 200 Boeing MAX 200 planes, which will bring its fleet to some 520 aircraft. Ryanair is planning to handle 110 million passengers per annum (mppa) within five years and to reach 160 mppa by 2024. See the Yahoo News report and also the Ryanair report
...and looks to Aldi and Sex Pistols for inspiration
Ryanair has announced a new customer charter for 2015 and will limit the use of bright yellow in its cabins and on uniforms. Chief commercial officer Kenny Jacobs said Ryanair was seeking to position itself alongside retailers like Aldi and Ikea in appealing to people who require a quality product at competitive prices. "We're not vanilla," he said. "We're still going to have a bit of a Sex Pistols attitude. You're never going to see us being boring, you're never going to see us fade into grey and be just like every other carrier." The Irish carrier says it is considering its own transatlantic flights under another brand name or connecting with US airlines flying into Europe. See the Bloomberg report and also the Travel Weekly report.
Race horses and F1 parts in 11,000 cargo flights
Stansted Airport ships annually 230,000 tonnes of freight, worth £9.5bn, on 11,000 cargo flights to and from 200 countries. Shipments include textiles, fruit and vegetables, flowers, electronics, pharmaceuticals, mail, race-horses and Formula One equipment. The airport gave these figures when announcing that Network Aviation Group is to expand its cargo services at Stansted by adding a fourth weekly service between Kenya and London. See The Loadstar report.
Prospect of reduced London rail journey times?
The London Stansted Cambridge Consortium (LSSC) is claiming victory over Network Rail after Chancellor George Osborne intervened in a dispute over whether a new fast rail line should be built between London and Stansted Airport, reports The Times. The row began last autumn when Network Rail's investment plans for the years to 2019 did not even include a feasibility study for four-tracking any of the London-Stansted rail line. Sir Howard Davies, the Airports Commission Chairman and London Mayor Boris Johnson sharply criticised Network Rail, forcing its chief executive, Mark Carne, to write to The Times announcing that he had ordered a fresh look at the issue. Network Rail will now lead a cross-industry study on improving the rail link between London and Stansted. The LSSC and Stansted Airport have been lobbying for changes that could halve the rail journey times to and from central London.
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