The Freight Transport Association (FTA) says increasing airport capacity in the South East of England is vital if the UK is to retain its position as a global trading hub.
The association was responding to the UK Government’s Draft Airports National Policy Statement, and called for a swift resolution to discussions over the construction of a third runway at Heathrow before the gateway loses further prominence in global trading to its European neighbours.
The Government gave their approval for a third runway at Heathrow last year, but in the autumn MPs will vote in Parliament on the issue before a final decision. This comes after the UK General Election (GE) next month and the FTA is calling on a decision to be made swiftly after the GE.
FTA head of global policy, Alex Veitch says: “FTA has consistently supported the construction of a third runway at Heathrow, in preference to Gatwick – 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.”
The York Aviation Report, jointly commissioned by FTA and Transport for London (TfL) in 2015, found 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.
Veitch adds Heathrow is ideally placed to ensure that the nation’s businesses can continue to operate with minimal interruptions or inconvenience.
Veitch continues: “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.
He adds: “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.”