Heathrow Airport would be the best site for a new runway in the South East of England for airfreight growth, the Airports Commission consultation suggests.
On 11 November, the UK government’s Airports Commission, which is examining runway increases, published a public consultation document with three proposals. Two are for Heathrow Airport getting either a third runway to the North West (see picture with purple outline for new runway) or an extension to its north runway. The third proposal is for a second runway at Gatwick Airport.
The documents, however, explain that Heathrow freight handling and forwarding companies are well established and, “the industry would be well placed to respond quickly to a growth in [Heathrow] capacity”. It handled 1.4 million tonnes of freight during 2013, compared to Gatwick’s 98,000 that year. About Gatwick, the consultation documents say its cargo is carried entirely in bellyholds. It also states that significant growth would require investment by third parties around the airport. Gatwick’s director of Airports Commission work, Alastair McDermid, argues that the airport was well prepared to grow cargo operations.
He tells Air Cargo Week (ACW): “We acknowledge there is a well established airfreight industry in and around Heathrow. Accepting Heathrow have got a head start, we still have a lot to offer.” He adds that Gatwick can offer custom built facilities, lower charges to carriers and other benefits such as less congestion in and around the airport. He also says: “The forecast is to grow airfreight to 1.1 million tonnes and we have allocated enough land for that to happen.”
The report acknowledges that sufficient space exists around the proposed Gatwick second runway masterplan for the provision of these facilities, but says, “the commercial factors that would determine their success are difficult to appraise with any degree of certainty at present”. Despite the report providing two proposals for Heathrow and extolling its hub capabilities, Airports Commission chairman, Sir Howard Davies, says: “We have not yet taken a view on which proposal strikes the most effective balance between the assessment criteria.”
Heathrow tells ACW: “We welcome the Airports Commission’s agreement that Heathrow is well placed to enhance the UK’s freight operations. Expansion at Heathrow would enable us to develop our cargo facilities to double the throughput we have today.”
Let Britain Fly is the campaign for airport expansion in the South East. Its director, Gavin Hayes, says: “We would therefore like to see the main parties offer manifesto commitments to make a quick decision on airports expansion in a timely fashion following the election, guided by the Airports Commission’s final recommendation.” The consultation closes on 3 February. Responses to it will be published in the commission’s final report in mid-2015.