UK runway decision needed now, says FTA’s Welsh

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

The importance of Heathrow as a world-class hub for UK imports and exports was highlighted by the Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) director of global and European policy, Chris Welsh on Wednesday.

He addressed the ‘Shaping the Future Heathrow’ Conference at the Royal Institute of British Architects in London – which explored the airport’s future development and stressed the need for an urgent Government decision on a third runway at Heathrow.

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May is set to make a decision in the autumn on whether Heathrow is expanded, as recommended by the Airports Commission. A Cabinet committee is set to be named soon to come to a decision.

Welsh told delegates that the Brexit vote makes connectivity to new and emerging markets all the more pressing: “The Government must now follow the recommendation of its own inquiry and back a third runway at Heathrow. Without it, the UK will irreversibly fall behind competitors such as Schiphol, Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt, and much of the airfreight market will over time transfer to these continental airports.”

The FTA says airfreight accounts for around 40 per cent of the UK’s imports and exports by value. High end manufacturing industries such as pharmaceuticals, automotives, mobile telephones and jewellery are dependent on Heathrow and additional capacity is vital to meet growing demand for connectivity to emerging markets in Asia, the Indian sub-continent and South America.

The Davies Commission concluded in July 2015 that Heathrow rather than Gatwick Airport should expand because of the economic benefits for the whole country, which included £147 billion in economic growth over the next 60 years and the creation on 70,000 new jobs by 2050.

The York Aviation report commissioned by FTA found Heathrow as the best and most cost effective option for air cargo, offering 191 destinations and moving 1.5 million tonnes of freight annually.

Welsh added: “Only Heathrow has the connectivity to global markets and infrastructure to be a truly international freight hub, offering an unrivalled range of direct flights and airlines and minimising the need to connecting transport by road. Delaying a decision further will cause irreversible damage.”