| 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 - September 2016
Ryanair repeats call for second Stansted runway
Not for the first time, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has called on the Government to approve a second runway at Stansted. He urged the Government to be 'radical' and sanction runways at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted instead of choosing between Heathrow and Gatwick. This would ensure the UK had airport capacity for the next 50 years and would stop passengers being 'ripped off', reported the Herts and Essex Observer on September 8. The Airports Commission's final report in July 2015 recommended that a third runway should be built at Heathrow by 2030 and that Stansted could be an option for a further runway in the future. Ryanair accounts for about 80 per cent of Stansted's business.
Stansted has "accelerated out of financial crisis"
Stansted Airport's boss has admitted that the post-EU referendum devaluation of the pound and the likely fall in GDP growth would hit operations. Charlie Cornish, chief executive of MAG, the owner of Manchester and Stansted airports, predicted a 12-24 month blip. Nevertheless, he predicted that Stansted would be so congested by 2030 that it would need a second runway. In a Times article he stated that Stansted has "rapidly accelerated out of the global financial crisis, during which it lost a third of its passenger numbers. Its mixture of sun-seeking and short-break holidaymakers and its attraction to business people for flights to continental capitals means that it is particularly exposed to economic vacillations."
Gatwick ups its bid for new runway
Gatwick has turned up the heat in its bid to displace Heathrow as the preferred choice for a new London runway. Gatwick boss Stewart Wingate said he hoped former 'foregone conclusions' would be jettisoned. In a series of interviews he pointed out that Gatwick had joined the 'premier league' thanks to 50 long-haul routes and passenger numbers growing to 43m, which made the Airport Commission's predictions 10 years out of date. See The Times report. In a Sunday Times interview, Wingate said Gatwick had pledged to build its runway by 2025 at an estimated cost of £7.1bn. He would be prepared to give the Government assurances that it would not sell the airport for a quick profit if it won approval. Gatwick has spent about £40m promoting its runway. The article also stated that Heathrow had made a last-ditch effort to sway the decision by pledging to cut £3bn from the cost of its £17bn new runway, including scrapping plans to tunnel the M25 under the runway, and saying it could open by 2024. See The Sunday Times report.
The Times backs Gatwick
In a leading article, The Times has come out in support of Gatwick being given permission to build London's extra runway. Arguing the case for investment in infrastructure, the paper states, "After what has felt like interminable prevarication, it is time to make a decision on a new runway for the southeast. Gatwick remains the sensible choice for its location, capacity and potential for speedy construction. In political terms, the battle is all but won. Mrs May has yet to declare for an airport herself, but her top team contains both loud anti-Heathrow voices such as Boris Johnson and Justine Greening, and pro-Gatwick ones like Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd. The mayor of London agrees, as do the London public by a margin of 12 points."
Birmingham also gets in on the act
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, economist Liam Halligan argues that the next new runway should be built at Birmingham rather than Heathrow, as a means of refocusing UK growth away from London and the South East and spreading wealth towards the regions of the UK.
...and Birmingham and Gatwick make a united appeal
Writing in The Times, Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate and Birmingham Airport CEO Paul Kehoe made a joint appeal to Theresa May to reject the recommendation of the Airports Commission to build a new runway at Heathrow and instead support a second runway at Gatwick followed by a second runway at Birmingham. "We believe that this programme would benefit the nation as a whole. It would chart a course for regional airport expansion rather than simply recreating a monopoly in London that would blunt regional growth. A third runway at Heathrow would deter airlines from expanding services at Birmingham, Belfast, Edinburgh and elsewhere" they say, adding "British business is crying out for certainty and Heathrow cannot provide that. Last week an all-party parliamentary group on Heathrow set out 16 serious risks that could stop or delay expansion. They include legal challenges over breaches to EU and UK laws on air quality and excessive noise that could prevent consent for the runway."
Cabinet divided over Heathrow or Gatwick
With indications that the Government is likely to make a decision by the end of October about where London's extra runway will be built, members of the Cabinet are lined up in support of both contenders. However, ministers opposed to expanding Heathrow are not prepared to quit the Government over the issue, clearing the way for Theresa May to push ahead with a third runway. Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, and Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, are opposed to a third runway at Heathrow but are unlikely to resign despite the impact it would have on their constituencies, says The Sunday Telegraph. Theresa May is prepared to push ahead with a third runway in October if she concludes that it is in the "national interest", despite previously opposing plans to expand the airport, says the paper. Philip Hammond, the Chancellor, has criticised the Heathrow plan in the past whilst Trade Secretary Liam Fox has campaigned in favour, saying the country cannot put off major infrastructure decisions. Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, is thought to have had held lengthy meetings with Heathrow, Gatwick and Heathrow Hub - the independent scheme to lengthen one of Heathrow's existing runways. See The Telegraph report.
Meanwhile, Stansted continues its steady recovery
Stansted is very close to returning to its peak passenger throughput of 24 million passengers per annum (mppa) that it first achieved in 2007, but with far fewer air transport movements (ATMs). In the 12 months to the end of August, passenger numbers were up 8.6% year-on-year to give a running annual total of 23.9mppa. ATMs (passenger and cargo) were 6.3% up year-on-year to 164,411, which is almost 30,000 fewer than in 2007, despite an increase in cargo flights. The overall reduction in ATMs stems from a 20% increase in the average number of passengers on passenger aircraft at Stansted between 2007 and 2016.
Delayed decision "already cost £9.5bn in trade"
Since the Airports Commission published its recommendation on the expansion of airports capacity in July 2015, Britain has missed out on at least £9.5bn in trade with emerging economies because the UK does not have a new runway, said business leaders in a letter to The Guardian. The country could not afford to fall behind Paris, Frankfurt or Amsterdam, they said. Their letter emphasised the importance of air freight to the success of the UK economy, with 40% of our exports by value travelling by air.
Airlines lobby against air passenger tax
Airline bosses are confident that Theresa May will abolish air passenger duty (APD) even though it would cost the Treasury £3 billion a year in lost revenues, reports The Times. A lobby group of carriers, Airlines for Europe led by IAG, easyJet and Ryanair, say APD damages the Government's attempts to encourage tourism and trade as Britain prepares to leave the EU. Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, said that it would be "nonsense" for Mrs May to launch her "tourism action plan" and continue to levy the duty at between £13 and £146 per flight, says the paper. The rate of APD on long-haul first and business class tickets is due to increase to £150 next spring. Meanwhile, Ryanair has pledged to double passenger numbers to Scotland if air passenger duty is scrapped. Michael O'Leary called for the Scottish Government not to be 'mealy-mouthed' about the tax and to get rid of it altogether. The SNP administration confirmed this week that it would bring forward a replacement for APD by April 2018. See The Times report.
New runway could be fast-tracked
The Department for Communities and Local Government is considering "ripping up" planning laws to allow a new runway to be built at one of London's airports "within two or three years," says the Daily Mail. It claims that Whitehall insiders believe Government Ministers already have the power to fast-track the project and avoid a repeat of Heathrow's Terminal 5 - which sparked the longest public inquiry in British history, cost £80million and took eight years from first application to Government approval. See the This is Money report.
50 reasons not to have new runway
The Aviation Environment Federation (AEF) has launched a social media campaign based on 50 reasons why the UK doesn't need a new runway. Many of the arguments can be found in various SSE submissions and press releases over the years. The AEF campaign builds on its own analysis of the work of the Airports Commission including the major shortcomings in the Commission's handling of climate change and local air quality impacts of a new runway, and the negative net economic impacts.
Say goodbye to cheap flights and emissions targets
The only way the UK could have another runway without breaking climate change laws would be to impose huge increases on air fares, according to the Campaign for Better Transport's analysis of the Airport Commission's backing for a third runway at Heathrow. The report claims that carbon pricing, a measure the Commission suggested could be needed to ensure British aviation emissions remain on target, would add hundreds of pounds to air fares by 2050, spelling the end of low-cost flights. It estimates that a flight to New York could cost between £270 and £850 more under the suggested price hikes. Another consequence of the Airports Commission's analysis is that growth at regional airports would have to be restricted to allow expanded capacity at Heathrow, reports The Guardian. Writing in the same paper, Leo Barasi, who co-authored the analysis, says if the runway is built, the best hope of keeping flights affordable without breaking our climate targets may be for the Government to tax frequent fliers at a higher rate than those going on holiday just once or twice a year, so more people can still travel.
City airport expansion a 'double whammy'
The Government's decision to grant planning permission for London City Airport to expand to accommodate larger aircraft was described as a 'double whammy for residents' by campaign group HACAN East. Its chair, John Stewart, said: "The airport claims that the expansion will create over a thousand jobs. That is in the realm of speculation. What is certain is that residents' quality of life will get worse."
Brexit: Mixed reactions from the airlines
Heathrow's boss has suggested the airport has received a boost from Brexit with a weaker pound attracting foreign investors, encouraging international passengers to spend more in the terminals and strengthening its case for expansion. Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye has suggested the increase in retail sales could accelerate with a further drop in sterling since the June referendum. See The Guardian report. Meanwhile, Ryanair has set out plans to 'pivot its growth' away from the UK and cut capacity at Stansted as a reaction to the 'damaging' effect of Brexit. Boss Michael O'Leary, who campaigned hard for Britain to remain in Europe, said the UK's vote to leave was "both a surprise and a disappointment". He added: "We expect that Brexit uncertainty will lead to weaker sterling, slower growth in the UK and EU economies and downward pressure on fares until the end of 2017 at least. He said the airline would focus more on growing at its EU airports over the next two years and this winter would cut capacity and frequency on 'many London Stansted routes'. See The Telegraph report. Ryanair?s arch-rival easyJet said that it had activated its Brexit contingency plans in August by applying for a European Union licence to keep flying throughout the bloc even if the current, deregulated aviation market within the UK and Europe does not survive. Airlines' shares have nose-dived since the Brexit vote, over fears of recession and consumers spending less, as well as the impact of recent terrorist attacks, reports the London Standard. Ryanair's shares are down by nearly a fifth since the referendum, but rose 5% as it maintained profits guidance. Most other European airlines, including IAG, the owner of British Airways, and easyJet, have issued profit warnings in the wake of Brexit. See the Evening Standard report.
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