| 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 - May 2016
Boris Johnson renews calls for Stansted expansion
Boris Johnson, the recently retired London Mayor and MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, has resurrected his call for a four-runway hub either in the Thames Estuary or at an expanded Stansted Airport as the only way to secure the new routes required to boost the UK economy. He said: "If we are to secure the connectivity we need to support our future growth and prosperity - and do so without dire impacts on public health - then we must do better than Heathrow." The 78-page document produced by the Mayor's office says a four-runway hub would serve 114 daily long haul routes in 2050, compared with 75 at a three-runway Heathrow. A Stansted Airport spokesman said the immediate priority should be to urgently invest in rail improvements to allow Stansted to make best use of its existing spare runway capacity. Plans to create a hub airport in the Thames Estuary were rejected by the Airports Commission in 2014. See the BBC News report.
"Sadiq Khan's victory gives Heathrow a surprise boost"
Whereas Boris Johnson has always been ideologically opposed to Heathrow expansion (and has argued instead for a new estuary airport or four new runways at Stansted), Sadiq Khan supported a third runway at Heathrow until a year ago, when he set his sights on becoming London Mayor. He then switched his allegiance and argued that Gatwick was a better option than Heathrow. Having defeated Zac Goldsmith in the London mayoral election on May 6th, the Telegraph reports that it is now easier for the Government to endorse a third runway at Heathrow. The explanation given is that Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP for Richmond Park, is a fierce opponent of Heathrow expansion (and, like Boris, he has argued for expansion at Stansted as an alternative). However, Zac Goldsmith has been weakened by his defeat at the hands of Sadiq Khan. In addition, it would be easier for the Government to ignore the objections of Labour London Mayor than a Conservative London Mayor. See The Telegraph report.
"Cameron will scrap Heathrow runway plan"
Another West London Tory MP, Justin Greening, claims that David Cameron will scrap plans to build a third runway at Heathrow. She said she believed the Government would start a new long-term strategy to increase airport capacity by shelving Heathrow, according to a report in the London Standard. Miss Greening, who is International Development Secretary and represents Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, has long opposed the expansion of Heathrow. Speaking to The Telegraph, Miss Greening said: "I don't believe that this Government will proceed with a third runway decision. Trying to expand Heathrow is like trying to build an eight bedroom mansion on the site of a terraced house. It is a hub airport that is just simply in the wrong place." Meanwhile, Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood warned ministers not to comment on Heathrow before an official announcement amid fears the final decision could be subject of a legal challenge. See the Evening Standard report.
Brexit could hit cheap European flights - Cameron
David Cameron has warned that if Britain were to leave the EU it could have a damaging effect on the low-cost aviation sector. The prime minister argued that television companies, financial services and other businesses would struggle to maintain access to EU markets and singled out low-cost airlines. He said airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair would find it difficult to freely operate routes between EU member states if Brexit came about. He made the remarks as he sought to counter arguments from Leave supporters, including Boris Johnson, that the UK could prosper by emulating Canada's free trade deal. The PM warned that Canadian airlines can operate routes from Canada to Europe but not within Europe.
Travel industry slams Osborne over APD
The travel industry has criticised Chancellor George Osborne over a "missed opportunity" to reform Air Passenger Duty (APD) in the Budget. It claims the tax has a "negative impact" on UK economic growth. Flybe CEO Saad Hammad said, "UK APD is the highest aviation tax in Europe and one of the highest in the world, which penalises disproportionately domestic UK travellers on a per mile basis compared to European short-haul and long-haul. If the Chancellor needs the overall £3 billion levied through APD, then we urge him to raise it more fairly by cutting the charge to Scottish levels at regional airports and establishing a higher levy or 'congestion charge' at the congested airports in London such as Heathrow and Gatwick." See the Buying Business Travel report.
easyJet to exploit Scottish APD reduction
easyJet says that it plans to dramatically increase the number of flights it directs through Scotland if the SNP-led Government pushes ahead with its plans to reduce tax at the country's airports, the company has announced. The SNP has committed to halving the rate of air passenger duty (APD) from April 2018 with a view to abolishing it altogether in the longer term. On the day the Scottish Government launched a consultation on the proposed reduction in APD, the budget airline said it expected to increase its services by about 30 per cent in Scotland if the changes went ahead, increasing passenger numbers from 5.5 million to 7 million a year. APD rates currently range between £13 and £146, depending on the distance of the flight and the class of seat. In a separate announcement, Carolyn McCall, the easyJet CEO boss, warned that the price of flights could increase if the UK votes to leave the EU. See The Independent report.
Heathrow loses passenger share to rivals
Heathrow Airport is losing its share of UK passenger numbers to Stansted and Luton airports. According to 2015 data from the Civil Aviation Authority, Heathrow's share of passengers at UK airports declined from 30.8% in 2014 to 29.8%. Gatwick, the UK's second busiest airport, was static with a 16.0% share whilst Stansted and Luton saw their shares rise significantly to 8.9% and 4.9% respectively. The result is that the combined total of air passengers using Gatwick, Stansted and Luton equals that of Heathrow for the first time. See the TR Business report.
Another month of double-digit growth at Stansted
Stansted's passenger numbers rose by 13.2% in March compared to the same month last year. With the continuing increase in the average number of passengers per flight of about 2% per annum (mainly due to higher load factors) the number of air traffic movements (ATMs) increased at a slower rate and were up 11.2% on the year. Stansted's 12 month rolling total has now exceeded 23 million passengers for the first time since July 2008. Cargo tonnage for the month was up 13.7% from March 2015, whilst the cumulative 12 months cargo, at 243,000 tonnes, was up 4.8% on the 12 months to March 2015. See the London Stansted Airport report.
Stansted defends increased drop-off charge
The charge for dropping off passengers at Stansted Airport terminal forecourt has been increased to £3.00 for a maximum stay of 10 minutes. A £50 penalty applies if the 10 minute limit is exceeded. The local residents discount scheme is not affected by the changes and remains at 50p for those living within a five-mile radius and £1 within five to ten miles. On Twitter, Alpha Executive Cars complained to airport bosses: "Yet another price rise... a 20% increase. Didn't notice inflation had shot up! And sure your costs haven't #monopolistic." Defending the increase, an airport spokesman said the charge was "just part of the annual price review". He added that the express drop-off area was not for picking up passengers, but for set down only within a ten minute period. He explained there was also a free drop-off or pick-up area at the mid-stay car park with free courtesy bus to the forecourt. See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
Stansted marks 25th anniversary
Stansted Airport has marked its 25th anniversary. Originally a Second World War USAAF base, a £400 million terminal, designed by Lord Foster, was opened in 1991. The first flight departed to Glasgow four days later, and since then more than 350 million passengers have passed through the building on over 3.2 million flights. After two extensions and further improvements after Manchester Airports Group took over the airport in 2013, Stansted serves more than 170 destinations and employs 11,600 people. See the Cambridge News report. An Anglia News special report on the anniversary included an interview with SSE chairman Peter Sanders who referred to the group's successful campaign that led to the then owner BAA's withdrawal of its application for a second runway. The programme can be viewed on catch-up here.
Rail improvements branded "derisory"
Network Rail's scaled-back plans for short-term improvements to train journey times and reliability on the mainline to Stansted airport and Cambridge, were described as "derisory" by Andrew Harrison, the airport's outgoing managing director. The airport had been working in partnership with Network Rail on a proposal to reduce journey times to Stansted to around 40 minutes over the next five years, which would also lead to improvements for commuters in Cambridge, Bishop's Stortford and Harlow, reports the Herts and Essex Observer. Mr Harrison said: "Network Rail's plans for the West Anglia Main Line to London Stansted Airport and Cambridge fall a long way short of what passengers, commuters and businesses on the line deserve. The plans still do not provide an adequate solution to the Airports Commission's recommendation for urgent action to improve rail services to Stansted in the short term and they do not address the issues that passengers face now - day in, day out - in terms of journey times and reliability. The suggestion by Network Rail of a two-minute saving to Stansted is derisory when our own work shows that a much greater reduction in journey times could be achieved in the short term, paid for by the additional fares from more passengers using faster trains." See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
Advertising bonanza in Gatwick v Heathrow 'shoot-out'
Millions of pounds spent by Heathrow and Gatwick airports to promote their case for an extra runway has become one of the longest running and costliest advocacy campaigns in the UK. Gatwick alone has spent more than £25 million trying to persuade politicians and business groups that it should have a second runway. In his blog on the politico.eu website, Alex Spence points out that volunteer-run campaign groups against airport expansion could not come close to matching the airports' advertising firepower. At one point, Gatwick bought all the advertising slots at Westminster Tube station to make its case. The Advertising Standards Authority banned a Gatwick poster for making a misleading comparison with Heathrow and also banned a Heathrow billboard because it exaggerated the amount of local support for its runway bid. "Whilst campaign groups such as Stop Stansted Expansion and our opposite numbers fighting expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Luton can't match the propaganda spending of major airports, we have more than held our own in media exposure and submissions to Parliament and the Airports Commission," commented Brian Ross of SSE's economics adviser. SSE pointed out that BAA spent £200m on its proposed second runway at Stansted before throwing in the towel. "The real difference was that we had more powerful evidence and arguments and we put all this across with greater conviction," he added.
BA to fly from Stansted to Berlin
British Airways will launch a weekly service between Stansted Airport and Berlin in May. BA earlier announced summer services from Stansted to holiday destinations Faro, Malaga, Palma and Ibiza. The extra service will be operated with an additional Embraer 190 jet that is to be based at London City Airport, from where BA will also be launching new services to Berlin and Hamburg. See the Ipswich Star report.
New CEO for Stansted
Andrew Cowan, Chief Strategy Officer of Manchester Airports Group, has been appointed divisional CEO of Stansted Airport. He was formerly managing director of Manchester airport. Andrew Harrison, who had been Managing Director of Stansted since MAG bought the airport in 2013, will take over Mr Cowan's former role at MAG, based in Manchester. One of Mr Harrison's new responsibilities will be to set up MAG's "digital strategy and e-commerce business model" to improve customer service and airport efficiency and expand profitable products and services outside of the Group. See the Cambridge Network report.
London Stansted Cambridge Corridor's global ambition
The London Stansted Cambridge Corridor (LSCC) Growth Commission has delivered a shopping list to the Government which it says will help deliver global competitiveness. The move comes as the West Anglia Taskforce warned how growth across the region would be damaged if work is not done to improve rail links, including investing in four-tracking as a vital precursor to Crossrail 2. The Corridor's growth is outpacing all other regions across the UK but the commission has warned that comparable zones around the world are outperforming it because they have better co-ordinated strategies for 'smart growth', particularly in housing and transport. The report emphasises that the region's competition is not with other parts of the UK but with other growth areas globally, such as Silicon Valley and Greater Munich. See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
David and Goliath battle over airport development plans
Ringway Parish Council, the smallest in the country, has gone head to head with Manchester Airports Group over its plans for a £1bn development at Manchester Airport. The only civil parish in the city of Manchester, Ringway is home to less than 100 residents who live close to Ashley in Cheshire and the surrounding area near the airport. The five-member council has objected to a "super terminal" to be built on the hub's existing footprint on the grounds that the building would overshadow local houses, make the roads busier and worsen noise pollution. See the Manchester Evening News report.
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