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Mayor tells government to speed up aviation timetable or risk economic stagnation


The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has called on the Government to accelerate work to deliver a brand new hub airport in the southeast. He has warned that if the new airport is not delivered in the shortest possible time then the economy of London and the UK will stagnate.

In a major speech at City Hall, the Mayor ruled out any expansion of Heathrow airport, and said that the only solution to the aviation capacity crisis is a new four-runway hub airport. He told an audience of aviation experts and business leaders that the scale of the site required for a four runway airport meant that Heathrow was ruled out. Realistic locations included the Thames Estuary and possibly Stansted.

The Mayor also criticised the timetable that the Government has set out for the Davies Commission, which is not currently due to report back until the next Parliament, in 2015. The Mayor believes that the programme of work is too slow and that the economy of London and the UK will suffer as a result of the delay. That deterioration in London’s international connectivity will mean the capital loses ground against its international competitors that will be difficult to recover.

The Mayor intends to accelerate his work to consider thoroughly all options for construction of a new hub airport to serve London and the south east and submit his findings to the Davies commission as soon as possible. His aim is to ensure any proposals are supported by sufficient details on all relevant factors – including demonstrating the commercial viability of a new hub airport and the environmental impacts.

The Mayor also hammered home the challenges to the UK’s economy that are posed by the lack of capacity at Heathrow, which is already operating at up to 99 per cent of its capacity. Aviation demand in Europe alone is set to grow by four per cent a year over the next 20 years according to Boeing and aviation markets across the developing economies of the Far East are set to boom.

London is the motor of the UK economy and the capital’s economic performance relies heavily on its international connectivity. However with no capacity to take on new routes at Heathrow, other European cities that have, or are already building multi-runway hub airports, are set to take advantage of the lack of expansion in the UK and win jobs and business that would have been destined for London.

The lack of capacity at Heathrow is already affecting performance at the airport, which was classified third worst for delays in Europe during August according to EuroControl. And the Mayor’s speech also highlighted the already serious noise and air quality impacts of Heathrow, which is responsible for more than a quarter of all those people affected by aircraft noise in Europe. As result he is recommending that the Government develops a new metric to measure noise that more fully represents noise sensitivities during course of a day and overnight. The Mayor is also recommending that the Government explores the use of independent panels to oversee noise management at airports.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “The Government programme to address the looming aviation capacity crunch in the UK is far too slow and I am hugely concerned that their intended timetable sets a course for economic catastrophe. This continued inertia is being fully exploited by our European rivals who already possess mega hub airports that they intend to use to erode our advantage. I will continue to work with the Government and the Davies Commission; but the urgency of the situation and the lamentable attention that the Government has paid to this pressing issue has forced me to accelerate the work that I will do to develop a credible solution.”

Earlier this year the Government published their Draft Aviation Policy Framework for consultation. The Mayor’s speech forms part of his response to that consultation with the full response expected to be completed later this month. However the Mayor has already made it clear that he believes the Framework and the final report of the Davies Commission must lay the foundation for a National Policy Statement on Aviation, which will allow the delivery of a new hub airport for London in the shortest possible timeframe.

In his full response the Mayor will spell out how it is in the country’s and London’s interest for the Government to shorten their proposed timetable and require the Davies Commission to publish its final report by the end of 2013. He will also outline how the third, half length, runway proposed for Heathrow would not provide sufficient capacity to meet future need; and in any case would not be significantly faster to develop than a new multi-runway hub airport.

A summary document released by the Mayor today indicates that in the very short term it may be possible to explore how non-hub airports such as Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and Birmingham might help serve a proportion of the long haul traffic routes that cannot be accommodated at Heathrow. However there is an urgent need to agree a site for a new hub airport to deliver a lasting and sustainable response to the aviation capacity crisis affecting London. In order to deliver the maximum possible economic benefit this site would need to be in a location where it could operate without stringent night restrictions.

The summary document also covers the need to consider passenger and business access to a new hub airport and the need to incentivise people to travel to airports by public transport. New airports that have been built around the world have benefited from being able to plan their own dedicated rail links, with speedy links to nearby cities, which allows them to carry a much higher proportion of passengers by rail than airports such as Heathrow.


The Mayor’s summary of his response to the Government’s Draft Aviation Policy Framework can be found at

Our major European rivals continue to make a range of capacity improvements and though none face the capacity crunch that Heathrow does, many are already working up plans for how and where to accommodate future hub demand. In short, the UK needs to rise to the hub capacity challenge if UK connectivity – and the UK economy – are not to be left behind.

Any reasonable assessment of environmental criteria leads to the conclusion that Heathrow is wholly unsuitable as a future hub location. Heathrow accounts for 95% of all the people impacted by noise from London’s airports, with 725,500 people affected in excess of 55dB LDen – almost 60 times as many as the next highest in London.

Air quality in the area of Heathrow already breaches EU limits.

Irrespective of the environmental impacts, there is insufficient space for Heathrow to grow to the size necessary to meet the long term requirements. A 3rd runway would only ever be an interim solution.

The operational scale of the location required – accommodating at least 4 runways – means that several locations, constrained by available land, have to be ruled out. These include the existing airport locations of Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham and Luton.

The remoteness of Manston and Lydd and the potential journey times to London, mean they fail the access requirements.

The total cost of building a new 180mppa hub airport – including terminals, runways, ancillary facilities and rail and road access links – is estimated to be around £75-80bn.

Under the right conditions, a new hub airport in London, could be delivered with private finance and be operated as a commercial viable business

It will be impossible to deliver a new hub airport without a clear expression of Government Policy in place which is supportive of a new hub airport.

This is likely to be expressed through a National Policy Statement (NPS) for Aviation which would need to set out the Government’s policy support for a new hub airport.

The planning requirements, constrained nature of the Heathrow site and the need to keep the existing airport operational would mean the earliest date for completion of a 3rd runway would be around 2026 – 2028, only 2-4 years quicker than a new hub airport.

In the very short term, however, other non-hub airports including Gatwick, Stansted and Luton could help serve a proportion of this long haul traffic, effectively ‘spillover’ routes that cannot be accommodated at Heathrow. This would improve London’s connectivity in the interim.

Surface access connections to the airport are a fundamental part of its success and its ability to operate effectively as London’s future hub. The objective would be to achieve very high levels of rail mode share for passenger journeys to the airport (70% for the new Hong Kong airport).

The Mayor believes London requires a world-class hub airport that:

has sufficient runway, apron and terminal capacity to support the predicted level of demand effectively and develop an extensive route network;

maintains no more than 75% runway utilisation. This will avoiding queuing of planes on the ground and in the air and ensure there is sufficient resilience in the face of disruption;

allows the hub to operate around defined waves of arrivals and departures, which maximise the efficiency of airline operations while increasing the transfer opportunities open to passengers;

has state of the art modern passenger facilities – including dedicated facilities for premium passengers – to attract passengers and airlines alike;

is renowned for the ease of making connections to minimise transfer times - ensuring its attractiveness for connecting passengers versus other hubs;

offers a journey time to central London of ideally half an hour and no more than 45 minutes – commensurate with international best practice;

absolutely minimises its local environmental impacts; and

is located in an area where the wider economic benefits of a hub can be maximised.

Heathrow saw the highest cumulative airport delays in Winter 2011/12 (Nov-April) of any airport in Europe and the highest average delay per flight (for commercial airports).

The airport was classified third worst in EUROCONTROL’s Airport delays in Europe in August 2012.

Aviation demand in Europe is forecast to grow at around 4% annually over the next 20 years, according to Boeing’s latest market outlook, with growth across a wide spread of destinations. However, in many parts of the emerging world - Brazil, India, Southeast Asia and China, the rate of growth is up to double this.

Britain is already falling behind European rivals. In 1993 (summer) Heathrow and Charles de Gaulle Airport both served 159 international destinations (Schiphol 172, Frankfurt 190 and Munich 107). In 2012 Charles de Gaulle served 231 international destinations whereas Heathrow only served 156 (Schiphol – 258, Frankfurt – 271, Munich – 198).

Heathrow only serves 3 mainland Chinese cities – Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou – the same number as Helsinki. Amsterdam (6), Frankfurt (5) and Paris (4) all serve more.

With the political will, a new hub airport serving up to 180mppa could become a reality by 2030.

A new airport of this size could support around 500,000 full-time year equivalent jobs.

The DfT’s forecasts predict that if no new runway capacity is created, Heathrow’s connectivity will deteriorate a further 20 per cent by 2050.

If we do nothing to solve our hub capacity problem, the UK will soon be losing over £1.5billion a year in trade and investment with emerging markets alone

Under the Government’s current policy of not increasing runway capacity at existing airports in the SE, London’s airports will be full by 2030.

Over a third of future worldwide aviation demand is forecast to occur on routes to/from and within Europe.

More than 100,000 tonnes of freight travels through Heathrow a month on international passenger flights, this is comparable to hubs at Paris and Amsterdam but Frankfurt handles around 50% more freight tonnage than Heathrow.

LHR operates at 98% of its available capacity and at busy times incoming aircraft spend between 30 - 40 minutes in stacks circling London. The CO2 emissions of aircraft stacking at Heathrow represent an amount equivalent to around 10% of the total CO2 emitted during the landing and take-off cycle (LTO) of aircraft arriving and departing at Heathrow.


Taxi out time (time between push back and take-off) at Heathrow is on average 18% longer than at Paris CDG, 31% longer than at Amsterdam and 40% than at Frankfurt.


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