Creation of increased airport capacity in the South East of England is vital if the UK is to retain its position as a global trading hub, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
FTA, the leading membership association in the logistics sector, whose members account for around 70% of the UK’s imports and exports, used its response to the Government’s Draft Airports National Policy Statement, to call for a swift resolution to discussions over the construction of a third runway at Heathrow before Heathrow loses further prominence in global trading to its European neighbours.
“FTA has consistently supported the construction of a third runway at Heathrow, in preference to Gatwick,” says Alex Veitch, the association’s head of global policy, “as our members believe it will deliver greater economic benefits to the whole of the UK from what is the key logistics hub for the entire country.
“Cargo is currently sent to and from Heathrow to 185 destinations in 84 countries – it is a vital link in the UK’s supply chain. Now that the Government has made a decision on its preferred option for expansion it is imperative that the decision-making process is concluded rapidly and that expansion work starts swiftly to protect the airport’s reputation as the UK leading airfreight gateway.
“Without it, Heathrow runs the risk of further losing ground to other European airports, including Paris Charles de Gaulle and Schipol, and could find it hard to attract business to London from other locations across Europe, post-Brexit.”
According to the York Aviation Report, jointly commissioned by FTA and Transport for London (TfL) in 2015, failure to expand capacity at London’s airports would have a detrimental effect on future trading partnerships, impacting shippers in terms of time and cost as they attempt to get goods to market, both in the UK and overseas.
As Veitch continues, Heathrow is ideally placed to ensure that the nation’s businesses can continue to operate with minimal interruptions or inconvenience.
“Many of the cargoes arriving at Heathrow contain time-sensitive goods which support British industry and business directly. With the airport already firmly established as a distribution hub for the nation’s logistics industry – with forwarders, specialist air cargo handlers and distribution centres clustered in close vicinity – as the FTA’s own Sky High Value report outlined, Heathrow is ideally placed to attract more international businesses to the UK, a vital step towards future prosperity in a post-Brexit world.”
The York Aviation Report also outlined how important it is for the UK’s import and export businesses to find new capacity for services to Asia, South America and the Indian sub-continent, and FTA believes this would be provided by the new runway: “In a post-Brexit world, the UK will be trading with increasing numbers of partners beyond the shores of Europe, and will need to find alternatives for delivery of goods beyond the traditional road freight model – an option which will be accommodated by the provision of a new runway.
“In addition, the government’s stated objective, to increase UK exports to the rest of the world, will only be achievable with increased capacity at Heathrow: the promised development needs to be undertaken as quickly as possible after the General Election. To renege on the agreed course of action would be tantamount to Geoffrey Howe’s famous Commons resignation speech as like being sent in to face fierce face hostile bowling with a broken bat!”
FTA recognises that the increased traffic that a new runway would create at Heathrow would have an additional environmental impact, and as part of its response to the consultation, has called for Air Quality Limits for the airport to be aligned with London road emissions standards and the newly created Ultra Low Emission Zone regulations:
“The air cargo sector, like the entire logistics industry, has made significant strides in improving its environmental impact, and continues to work towards lowering emissions and adopting new technologies.
“FTA and its members believe it is right that the Government should make expansion at Heathrow conditional upon meeting environmental limits. As we continue to work with the government on the airport expansion, this should be a key consideration, along with the need to provide excellent surface access for freight operators.
“This will have a direct business benefit, enabling the swift and efficient transfer of goods between the airport and trading partners across the country. FTA looks forward to working with Heathrow on these issues as they prepare their planning application.”
FTA’s Sky High Value report into the value of extending Heathrow’s capacity, can be downloaded at http://www.fta.co.uk/policy_and_compliance/air/air_freight.html
Following the General Election, a parliamentary vote will take place on the Heathrow proposal, before which FTA will continue to engage fully with MPs.