| 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 - 28 December 2015
Was this the excuse the Government was looking for?
A report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) published on December 1st said that the Government must not give final approval to Heathrow "until the airport can demonstrate that it accepts and will comply with key environmental conditions". Huw Irranca-Davies, the Labour MP who chairs the EAC, said: "To defer dealing with the environmental impact of a third runway would be irresponsible and could lead to legal challenges as a result of the potential damage to public health from increased air pollution and noise. If the Government decides to accept the [Airport] Commission's recommendation for a third runway in principle, we will seek assurances from the Secretary of State for Transport that environmental conditions will be met before it is given final approval." The committee of MPs said the airport must "reconcile Heathrow expansion with legal air pollution limits; commit to covering the costs of surface transport improvements; commit to introducing a night flight ban; and show that an expanded Heathrow would be less noisy than a two runway Heathrow". The Telegraph commented that the EAC report handed David Cameron 'the chance to delay the highly controversial decision on Heathrow expansion after MPs said the airport must not be given the final go-ahead until a series of environmental conditions were met'.
Just nine days after the EAC report was published, the Government announced that it would defer any decision about where to build extra aviation capacity until next summer. As The Independent points out this will be after the London Mayoral elections in May 2016. In 2012 David Cameron set up the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, to recommend the best solution to a predicted long term shortage of runway capacity in the South East. Two years ago, Sir Howard Davies narrowed the choice to two different Heathrow options or a second runway at Gatwick. Six months ago, the Airports Commission unanimously recommended a third runway at Heathrow. On the same day (1 July 2015), the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, said: "We will come back to Parliament in the autumn to provide clear direction on the Government's plans." However, it is now clear that no decision will be made until next summer by which time the new London Mayor will be known. The Tory candidate, Zak Goldsmith, has vowed to resign as MP for Richmond Park if a third runway at Heathrow goes ahead. Current London Mayor, Boris Johnson, is also fiercely opposed to Heathrow expansion, and lists Stansted amongst his preferred options. Patrick McLoughlin insisted that the reasons for delay were not political, saying: "It's vitally important we get the decision right so that it will benefit generations to come. We will undertake more work on environmental impacts, including air quality, noise and carbon."
Stansted jumps on Heathrow delay bandwagon
In an apparent attempt to exploit the recent Government announcement of a six-month delay in making a decision on whether to allow a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick, the owners of Stansted Airport have said making use of existing airport capacity is the only way to meet demand before a new runway can be built. Charlie Cornish, Chief Executive of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which owns Stansted, said it could be at least 15 years before a new runway was built. In the interim, he said that the Government should allow other airports to make the "biggest possible contribution". Rail services to Stansted should be improved and the limit on passenger numbers, currently 35 million passengers per annum (mppa), raised. Mr Cornish went on to claim that a second runway at Stansted is "inevitable". See The Guardian report, the Herts & Essex Observer report and the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee report.
'Expand Stansted not Heathrow'
A bigger Heathrow should be "unthinkable" and should concentrate on business travel. Stansted Airport should be given a proper rail link and expanded, and Gatwick could become a tourism 'hub'. That is the view of Sir Simon Jenkins, newspaper columnist, editor and former chairman of the National Trust. "Above all, the decision should be decided on a proper plan, not the Davies report's attempt to reconcile competing lobbyists," he wrote in the London Standard. He said the noise footprint over west London is already intolerable and we are only starting to understand the health impact of exhaust poisons. The number of 'businessmen' who really need to travel internationally is relatively small. Business travel accounted for 30 per cent at Heathrow, 20 per cent at Stansted and 18 per cent at Gatwick. "I guess half these journeys are really perks. Every time you hear a Heathrow lobbyist plead that an extra runway would 'generate up to £147 billion'... blow a raspberry" he says.
'Why was Stansted aborted?' - Lord Sugar
Using a question session in the Lords, Lord Sugar argued the case for Stansted Airport to be expanded rather than Heathrow. Lord Sugar asked Transport Minister Lord Spicer: "Can you remind the House as to why expansion of Stansted Airport was aborted? It has tremendous capacity and also very good connectivity with the centre of town?" Lord Spicer replied: "Stansted like other airports around the country is an important part of UK Plc's airport offering. You will also know there were many options the Davis Commission looked at and it was after considering over 50 options that it whittled those down to what is recommended in the report. It is important, when you commission a report, that you consider findings in detail." See the Cambridge News report.
Stansted still has a long way to go
Despite recent growth in passenger numbers, Stansted is still handling fewer passengers than in 2006 and 2007. The current total at 22.4 million passengers, for the 12 months to 30 November 2015, compares to a peak of 24.0 million passengers in 2006/07. Stansted has planning consent for 35 mppa.
The number of passenger flights at Stansted continues to grow far more slowly than the number of passengers. In the 12-months to 30 November 2015, Stansted handled 144,000 passenger flights, compared to 194,000 at its peak. The average payload per passenger flight has grown from just 90 in the year 2000, to 155 today. Average passenger payloads have thus grown by a remarkable 70% over the past 15 years whilst passenger aircraft are not noticeably larger or louder than they were in 2002. Stansted currently has planning consent for 243,500 passenger flights per annum, almost 100,000 more than the present total. See the Uttlesford District Council report.
Push for global carriers
Stansted Managing Director Andrew Harrison said the airport was continuing to compete hard to attract more global carriers. Mr Harrison said the airport had added 1.2m passengers year on year, making Stansted the UK's fastest growing airport. Meanwhile, MAG's chief executive Charlie Cornish claimed that the squeeze on London's runway capacity would push traditional airlines towards Stansted. He expected to sign 'some full-service carriers' in 2016. See the Business Weekly report and the Airwise News report.
Majority vote for no new runway
The majority of readers of the Herts and Essex Observer voted for 'No new runway' in a recent poll which asked where a new runway should be built in the South East. The options were Stansted, Heathrow, Gatwick or 'No new runway'. The sample size was small and the survey was not particularly scientific but it was nonetheless interesting that the majority view (52%) supported the stance of both SSE and Airport Watch that there is no case for a new runway at either Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted.
'Chancellor to rule out Gatwick runway'
Before the recent Government announcement that it would delay until next summer its decision about where to build a new runway in the South East, Chancellor George Osborne was reported to have argued that it must be 'Heathrow or nothing'. According to a national newspaper, 'sources close to Mr Osborne' claim he had been convinced by the conclusions of the Davies (Airport Commission) Report and so he was ready to rule out Gatwick. However, one 'ally' of the Chancellor told the Times: "George doesn't have a settled view on this. He just wants to see a runway built somewhere, as soon as possible, and once all the proper processes are concluded." The plan to expand Gatwick would cost between £8 and £9 billion - about half the cost of expanding Heathrow. Brendon Sewill, chairman of the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign, previously said: "Some people may benefit from the changes but thousands are going to find themselves under a new flight path, with their peace shattered and their house devalued," reports The Argus.
Regional airports get behind a bigger Heathrow
A group of 32 UK regional airports have called on the Government to support Heathrow expansion plans. The Regional & Business Airports Group wrote to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to support a third runway at Heathrow. However, British Airways boss Willie Walsh strengthened his opposition to helping Heathrow pay for another landing strip and criticised the scheme's 'outrageous' forecast cost of around £17 billion. See the Yahoo! Finance report.
Flash mobs demonstrate at Heathrow
Protesters from local and national campaign groups including Plane Stupid were joined by local residents in flash mob demonstrations against expansion at Heathrow Airport. They demonstrated at Terminal 2 and blocked a tunnel leading to the airport. John Stewart of Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN) said that the timing was intended to send a strong message to Heathrow Airport and David Cameron, that if the green light was given for a third runway, there would be continual protests from the local community. "Whatever decision the Government makes about the third runway, the local community is not going to go away and believes that it can defeat the proposals, as it did 10 years ago," he said. See the Colnbrook Views report.
BA ready to accept budget airline 'feeders'
British Airways, Aer Lingus and Iberia are ready to work with Ryanair as a feeder carrier for their long-haul flights. Whether it happens will depend on passenger demand, reports Travel Weekly. Both Ryanair and easyJet recently announced their willingness to feed passengers on to long-haul services. The budget carriers have previously ruled out coordinating flights with other airlines to offer interline tickets and check baggage through to final destinations.
Manchester Airport hits 23m passengers
Annual passenger numbers at Manchester airport have reached 23 million for the first time. After traffic slumped 20% between 2007 and 2010, airport bosses insist that the turnaround shows that Manchester Airport can play a 'bigger and broader role' in meeting demand for flights, as Heathrow waits to see if its expansion plans are approved by the Government, reports The Guardian. Work will start next year on a £1bn overhaul of the airport's terminals and infrastructure. Manchester has been pushing for improved road and rail links including high-speed rail.
Luton passengers top 12 million
Passengers using Luton airport have exceeded 12 million in a 12-month period for the first time in the airport's 77-year history. It marks 19 months of consecutive growth in passenger numbers for the airport. Work has started on a £110 million development project to increase Luton's annual capacity to 18 million passengers. See the Travel Weekly report.
Happier customers boost Ryanair profits
Ryanair says that the success of its 'Always Getting Better' customer service improvement programme helped it achieve a 37% increase in first half profits to €1.08 billion (£770million) after a 'very rare' series of favourable events. Stansted Airport's biggest airline customer saw passenger numbers increase 13% to 58 million in the six months to the end of September. See the East Anglian Daily Times report.
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