Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Heathrow Expansion - Air Freight Forwarding Community Speaks Out

However History and Politics Decree More Delays are Likely
Shipping News Feature
UK – The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has it expressed its concerns over the impact of lasts week’s news that the UK will leave the EU, and David Cameron’s subsequent resignation as Prime Minister, will have on the expansion of UK aviation capacity. With the final decision on the expansion of London’s Heathrow airport (LHR) already over a year late, and those in power seemingly with now more important things on their respective plates, the association fears further procrastination from the UK government on an issue which spans the decades. Robert Keen, Director General BIFA said:

“In December last year, BIFA voiced the dismay of its 1,500 member companies when the government announced that it would be deferring its final decision on expanding UK airport capacity until the summer of 2016. With last week’s developments, we are now entering a period of great uncertainty on the political front, and BIFA members are worried that will result in big decisions being postponed, or abandoned completely.

“In his resignation statement, David Cameron said he had always believed that big decisions had to be confronted, not ducked. He should make good on that sentiment by announcing forthwith that there will be no further delay and the Government will move forward with the recommendations made by the Airports Commission by building more capacity at Heathrow airport.

“The UK's freight forwarding community, which is the engine of Britain's international trade, is counting on the government to show that we are a confident, outward-looking trading nation, still capable of taking bold decisions that have a direct, positive effect on the UK economy, its international connectivity and reputation.”

It is a year since a government commission chose expansion at LHR over its rival Gatwick, the likely preferred option of Boris Johnson, but delays again intervened as further impact studies were ordered to look at both noise and air pollution issues. Adding his voice to the plea to make a speedy decision John Holland-Kaye, LHR Chief Executive said:

“At an uncertain time for the British economy MPs recognise that Heathrow is a private sector infrastructure project that will spread growth across Britain from the moment we get a green light. Now more than ever, people across Britain are counting on the government to take bold decisions that show we are a confident, outward looking trading nation.”

Almost 70% of Britain’s airfreight already passes through Heathrow, the fourth largest facility in Europe. Unfortunately the outlook for a rapid decision is bleak as Geoff Hoon Transport Secretary in the then Labour government gave the green light for the new runway in January 2009 following the case laid out in a 2003 white paper, only to see the decision reversed by the incumbent Conservative/Lib Dem coalition a year or so later.

Last month we heard the government criticised by the House of Commons Transport Committee, and over time we have seen two rail hub schemes proposed and abandoned, one using HS2 the other linking Gatwick to LHR, plus a dozen or so other schemes, including using all land but that on which Terminal 5 sits as a housing estate. So now, with a government and opposition in turmoil, we are left to dwell on where we might have been a decade ago if someone had actually come to a decision. The message is – don’t expect this one to end for a while, no matter how much sense it would make.