Freight Transport Association praises Heathrow expansion plans

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Chris Welsh, Freight Transport Association director of global and European policy

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has praised Heathrow Airport for its plans to invest £180 million ($277.6 million) to double airfreight volumes.

The airport will be spent on cargo facilities, processes and people. It will include a specialist pharmaceutical storage area to cater for ever rising demand for high value and temperature sensitive medicine. The FTA says improving the infrastructure will halve processing times from about eight hours to four by reducing congestion and providing smoother processes.

FTA director of global and European policy says: “Heathrow’s planned investment and increased freight capacity is exactly the type of commitment that FTA has long been asking for. The significance of airfreight is often overlooked but today’s announcement illustrates that Heathrow Airport has listened very carefully to ourselves and the freight industry.”

Heathrow Airport says freight forwarders will be able to benefit from more efficient handling for transit cargo, reducing connection times from the present average of six hours. It aims to be the first airport to be 100 per cent digital by working with airlines, the International Air Transport Association, the Department for Transport and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to become 100 per cent e-freight ready. The airport will also build a new truck parking facility with waiting areas for drivers, catering for over 100 vehicles, secure parking, access control, toilets and showers, and dining facilities.

Heathrow Airport chief executive officer, John Holland-Kaye says: “Cargo is essential for UK plc and Heathrow is its global freight connector, with 26 per cent of all UK goods by value going through the airport.”

He continues: “This investment plan will significantly improve our cargo facilities to support British businesses to keep the economy moving, connecting exporters to the world and helping the government reach its £1 trillion export target by 2020.”

Welsh says the expansion of pharmaceutical facilities is particularly welcomed. He says: “Time sensitive goods such as medicines rely on airfreight transportation and can’t realistically travel any other way. There has long been insufficient controlled temperature arrangements to move pharmaceuticals – the proposed improvements to provide this and to accelerate implementation of e-freight is essential in halving door-to-door air cargo movements.”

The FTA says airfreight accounts for 40 per cent of UK imports and exports by value. The association says airfreight is critical for industries such as pharmaceuticals, high-end manufacturing and retailers.