Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Freight Forwarders and Shippers Condemn Government Delays on London Heathrow Runway Announcement

Political Expediency is Influencing Decision Says BIFA
Shipping News Feature
UK – Political expediency loomed large over the decision to postpone any decision on the expansion of Heathrow Airport which has upset many in the freight and air cargo community. With organisations such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) lobbying hard for a new runway a firm proposal had been anticipated. The decision to delay any announcement has bitterly disappointed such as the British International Freight Association (BIFA), the trade association for UK freight forwarders and logistics service providers.

Although there is to be an official announcement on December 10 it has been widely rumoured that a six month delay will be confirmed and this tallies with the Prime Minister’s need to pacify those in his own party, such as London Mayoral candidate and rising Tory star Zac Goldsmith, who has said he will quit if the third runway gets the go ahead. BIFA Director General, Robert Keen sounded a doubtful note when he commented:

“If reports are to be believed, this latest possible delay is due to environmental and political issues. Whilst I understand the pressures that David Cameron is facing from many senior figures in his own party over the latter, it is difficult to believe that the Airports Commission did not cover all the bases on the former. Over the past decades, successive UK governments have shown a singular lack of vision in the face of a massive surge in air transport and consequent pressure on existing airport infrastructure in the South East.

“In 2009, BIFA gave qualified support to the then UK government’s decision to allow a third runway at Heathrow airport. I understand that there will not be an official announcement about the decision to delay the announcement until Thursday this week after the meeting of the Parliament's Economic and Domestic Cabinet sub-committee - which is chaired by David Cameron.

“If the news of a delay is correct, I would urge the Prime Minister to follow the lead taken by his colleague, George Osborne, who did a U-turn on tax credit cuts and reverse his opinion about the need to delay the decision. We need the government to get on with an increase in UK aviation hub capacity by announcing an expansion and improvement of airport infrastructure at Heathrow in order to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub.”

For its part the CBI referred to its recently published survey of 722 companies which showed 92% of firms see flights to one or more market as crucial or important. 65% view flights to the US as crucial or important, followed closely (64%) by flights to emerging markets. However just 45% believe our connections to emerging markets are fit for purpose, and 39% see domestic links as problematic with 91% asking for a new runway in the South East. Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:

“Now is the time for real leadership on expanding the UK’s aviation capacity. A decision from the Government to commit to delivering a new runway will provide an enormous boost to Britain’s workers, makers and exporters. After three years of evidence gathering and a decisive report from the Airports Commission, businesses want to see Government maintain the positive momentum this has delivered, by making a clear decision with a timetable for action. Failure to have new a new runway up and running by 2030 will cost the UK as much as £5.3 billion a year in lost trade to the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries alone.”