01/07/2015 - Welcome for recommendation to expand Heathrow Airport - Good news for the North!
The Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS), the regional transport partnership, has welcomed a finding announced today (Wednesday) that increased runway capacity in the South-East of England should be created at Heathrow Airport, London.
Central to its support for Heathrow’s expansion - recommended by the Independent Airports Commission - is a plea that Inverness Airport be given three ring-fenced slots each day to allow onward links to international markets – in recognition of its peripheral location.
The support for Heathrow was expressed in a detailed response to a consultation by the Independent Airports Commission on the three options for new runway capacity in the South East of England and reinforced the comments made to its Chairman Sir Howard Davies when he visited Inverness at the invitation of the Scottish Council for Development and Industry in June of last year.
HITRANS Chair Councillor James Stockan, welcomed the recommendation by the Independent Airports Commission in favour of a third runway at London Heathrow Airport.
He said: “HITRANS have taken a keen interest in the deliberations of the Independent Airports Commission. We have consistently made our argument that Inverness should be linked to the UK hub airport and whichever of the three short listed options was recommended by the Commission should move forward as quickly as possible and must deliver increased access from UK regions to that hub.
“It is particularly pleasing that the Commission has recognised our argument that the public service obligation should be available to protect regional access to a particular airport and hope that the Department for Transport responds positively to this key message.
“We recognise that this is a significant step towards creating much-needed additional capacity to improve connectivity to the UK but realise this is the end of the beginning and there is a long way to go before the new runway is constructed. We hope this project now moves forward as quickly as possible and look forward to hearing what commitments Heathrow Airport offers to the Highlands and Islands on our access to the hub.”
In its response to the consultation in February of this year, HITRANS favoured an expansion of Heathrow over an expansion of Gatwick.
At that time, Director Ranald Robertson wrote: “Heathrow Airport already sits at the heart of the UK’s transport network. It is the only airport that offers a hub airport allowing people to connect by road, rail and air to the range of flights to international markets that business and tourism need if the UK economy is to remain competitive.
“While it is important that the UK can benefit from increased access to global markets including important markets in the EU, North America and Asia / Pacific it is equally important that this connectivity is afforded to the whole of the UK.
“For the Highlands and Islands, geography predetermines that rail - even High Speed - is not the answer for the region to connect to the UK hub airport. Distance and time make air access to London essential both for point-to-point travel and onward connectivity. In adding our voice to those proposing to the Commission that Heathrow expansion is the best opportunity for the UK’s air system to develop, we would ask the Commission to strongly consider conditioning any recommendation on a new runway on the commitment from the promoter that an appropriate level of regional access will be accommodated for those UK regions who cannot access the Airport through a sub 3 hour rail journey.
“In the case of Inverness Airport, we would consider that medium to long term requirement to be 3 rotations per day with bidirectional morning and evening rotations supported by a middle of the day slot allocation. Air links to London are so important to the economy of the North of Scotland and that of the wider UK. Consequently it is essential that ring-fencing of new capacity for such links should form part of the Airports Commission’s final recommendations to Government.”
He went on to say that the impact of constrained capacity in the South East air system was already being felt in the Highlands and Islands. It was therefore important that the Commission’s final recommendation was backed up with strong interim measures to combat any further erosion of regional access to international markets.
He added: “If increased efficiency can achieve an increase in slots at London Heathrow we would ask that consideration be given to releasing a single daily rotation for Inverness access in the short term until a new runway is provided. We would also ask that the Commission offer a strong and supportive line on the case for regions such as the Highlands and Islands to receive support to access an alternative EU hub airport in the short term and propose a solution to this issue of deploying the Regional Air Connectivity Fund to secure an intra EU PSO from Inverness to Amsterdam on a business focused morning / evening twice daily rotation.”
Notes to Editors:
The final report and recommendations of the Independent Airports Commission is available here.
The HITRANS response to the consultation on shortlisted option is available here.