Monday, May 9, 2016

Freight Forwarding and Logistics Interests Back Heathrow Airport Commons Committee Report

Message is Make the Decision and Sort Out the Environmental Problems As Work Proceeds
Shipping News Feature
UK – In its report on airport expansion in the South East, the House of Commons Transport Committee, has criticised the UK Government for squandering the opportunity to end decades of ‘political dithering’ over a decision on the expansion of UK airport capacity, and urged the Secretary of State to set out a clear timetable for expansion, making clear the measures which have been accepted or rejected and the work which needs to be completed, with backing coming from sectors of the logistics community including freight forwarding and road haulage interests.

The report concludes that arguments for and against expansion have changed little in a quarter of a century. The Committee continues to back Heathrow, stating that the airport offers the greatest economic benefit and would do more to improve connectivity internationally and within the UK with the package of accompanying measures recommended by the Airports Commission. Chair of the Transport Committee, Louise Ellman MP, said:

"The Government must make up its mind. The decision on location is not the end of the process, it is the start of one. Real progress cannot begin until the location is declared. Work on environmental issues can run in parallel with other pre-construction work.

“Across the world, cities are collectively planning to build more than 50 new runways with capacity to serve one billion additional passenger journeys by 2036. The growth of large hubs in the Middle and Far East and North America threatens our position as a hub of international aviation. The UK's connectivity with the world's emerging markets is a major concern. Doing nothing means the UK continues to lose out."

Both the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the British International Freight Association (BIFA) have echoed the Committees call for a speedy decision. In May 2015, the FTA renewed its call on Government to look at increased airport capacity saying that a decision was needed sooner rather than later, and at the same time, FTA Chief Executive David Wells wrote to David Cameron highlighting the essential role of air freight.

The letter reiterated that 95% of air cargo is carried in the belly-hold of passenger aircraft; air freight accounts for nearly 40% of UK imports and exports by value and employs 39,000 people, mostly clustered around Heathrow - the UK's main airport hub. Speaking now, FTA’s Director – Global and European Policy, Chris Welsh, said:

“The FTA has been asking for a decision on additional airport capacity for a long time now. It is frustrating that we are still no further forward. This time last year we outlined the urgent need, but twelve months on no decision has yet been made.

“Airport expansion and increased air cargo capacity is vital to the UK economy to help ensure that it remains competitive in the global air freight market. Additional capacity at Heathrow is critical to allow importers and exporters to access new and emerging markets in Asia, South America and the Indian sub-continent. FTA urges the Government to take on board these recommendations and act quickly. Heathrow is critical for important sectors such as pharmaceuticals, high-end manufacturing and retailers.”

The long-awaited final report from the Davies Commission concluded in July 2015, and outlined that Heathrow was the best option because of the economic benefits for the whole country, which included £147 billion in economic growth over the next 60 years and the creation on 70,000 new jobs by 2050. A decision was promised by December 2015, but the Secretary of State announced further delay ‘to accommodate additional work on environmental impacts and the ‘best possible mitigation measures’, denying outright that it had nothing to do with the London Mayoral election. With promises that a decision will be made by at least summer 2016, these constant delays and excuses has led Robert Keen, Director General of BIFA, to say:

“We have already stated that last December’s announcement to delay a decision on the matter, was about political expediency, not environmental matters. Like the Transport Committee, we accept that the package of measures to mitigate environmental impacts needs careful consideration and further work. We do not accept that all of this needs to be done before a decision is taken on location. In fact a decision on location would give more focus and impetus to this work.

“As the Transport Committee states, the detailed and evidence-based work of the Airports Commission on environmental issues provides an ideal starting point for any further work on environmental issues to be undertaken in parallel with the other pre-construction work.

“The absence of a decision on location creates uncertainty, which is exacerbated by the lack of clarity the Government has created about exactly when a decision will be taken. Five months on, the UK's freight forwarding community, which is the engine of Britain's international trade, is still waiting for the Government to stop playing political football with the issue of aviation capacity and make a decision.”