Heathrow to start using RAF Northolt as a Third Runway
Heathrow is set to start using RAF Northolt as a temporary Third Runway it has announced.
In a press release issued by Heathrow on Monday 23rd March, the airport announced a package of measures in response to its claim that Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport now has more links to the UK’s nations and regions than Heathrow and Gatwick combined. [The reason, of course, is that Heathrow does not want domestic flights, as they are less profitable than long haul flights – so it has progressively cut them. AirportWatch note].
Heathrow said it would:
– Review its charges for domestic routes from January 2016.
– Provide £10m for a Heathrow Route Development Fund and partner with regional airports and airlines to establish new domestic routes.
– Work with government to re-designate ‘public service obligation’ routes to Heathrow.
(Currently subsidised routes operate only from Gatwick and Stansted).
The new measures are conditional on expansion going ahead and come with the usual dose of hyperbole.
“Taken together they have the potential to deliver billions of pounds worth of trade and investment opportunities, reversing a lost decade of connectivity which has seen regional connections to long-haul markets squeezed out of the UK’s hub airport.”
But significant in the release was a barely reported statement that the airport is ready to work with any organisation that wants to operate Northolt as a satellite runway for UK routes until Heathrow is expanded.
The airport said the measures were based on recommendations from the National Connectivity Task Force which issued its first report earlier this month. Despite its official sounding name the NCTF is nothing to do with the Government and is effectively competing with the Airports Commission, having been set up, and paid for, by Heathrow in December with a remit to improve connectivity between the regions and the major airports in the South East. (Gatwick airport is furious about it, and refused to take part, as did Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh airports, which do not support Heathrow. Link here.]
The airport makes no mention of this in its latest release.
The task force came under heavy fire from the CEO of Gatwick 2 weeks ago. Stewart Wingate said that it had been set up by Heathrow “solely to serve its own ends“:
“Despite its claims to some objectivity, this is clearly an exercise in manufacturing an outcome that suits Heathrow’s ambitions for a third runway.”
In its report published on March 16 the NCTF said that use of Northolt could become permanent if expansion at Heathrow is not given the go ahead this Summer, raising the possibility of expansion by the back door.
The NCTF report says of Northolt:
“3.12 The answer to these shortcomings is that there must be new South East runway capacity and it must benefit the whole of the UK and not just London and the South East. If it cannot be provided at either of the two short-listed airports then, as an ‘interim’ measure, urgent consideration should be given to converting RAF Northolt into a regional satellite of Heathrow, otherwise regional connectivity interests stand in significant danger of being materially damaged.”
More dirty tricks as Heathrow pushes for Northolt to become integral part of its plans
24.3.2015 (Colnbrook Views)
Heathrow’s National Connectivity Task Force has produced a 172-page report largely dedicated, it appears, to reversing Sir Howard Davies’ rejection of expansion at Northolt in 2013.
The National Connectivity Task Force (NCTF) says it has examined use of Northolt from the perspective of its potential as a movement-capped satellite for Heathrow on either an interim basis until a new runway opens or something more permanent. Its report published on March 16 concludes that Northolt is not the answer to runway capacity in itself but should be considered “a targeted contribution to a future South East runway capacity solution”.
However it also says the best “Gatwick focused scenario” of those it has considered is improved by bringing RAF Northolt into play as a regional satellite.
RAF Northolt is unique in being an under-utilised, publicly owned airport, located within the M25 and only 5 miles north of Heathrow, and is potentially capable of being brought into use quickly to cater for 30-90 seat turboprop (or possibly quiet regional jet) aircraft on routes serving origins/destinations within a 1-1.5 hour flight time of London.
The organisation’s report, in particular the apparent spin to present it as an official Government organisation, will see Heathrow stand accused of yet more underhand tactics. Northolt did not feature in its submission to the Airports Commission.
The organisation was set up by Heathrow in December to be, like Back Heathrow, officially independent of the airport. But it will nonetheless be seen as speaking for Heathrow, and the airport has already endorsed its report in a press release issued last Monday – with no mention of its role in setting up or funding the organisation.
In December 2013 the Airport Commission’s interim report ruled out expansion at Northolt. It cited safety issues – primarily its proximity to busy roads, as well as poor surface transport links with Heathrow, its prohibitively short runway, and impact on Heathrow’s own airspace capacity.
The Commission’s conclusion is that RAF Northolt does not provide a realistic option for managing capacity at Heathrow.
In January a Judicial Review of the basis upon which civil aircraft may use Northolt concluded that the CAA is responsible for the safety of civil aircraft operating from the RAF base. However the report also emphasises the Judgement’s conclusion that Northolt “…may be deemed safe for use by civil aircraft without necessarily complying with the letter of all requirements which it is the policy of the CAA to impose on private operators who wish to run licensed aerodromes”.
And, anyway, the NCTF says this is not an insurmountable obstacle and that aircraft using the airport could be restricted to turbo prop aircraft with good ‘short field’ performance – already in use by a number of UK regional airlines:
“Whatever the type of aircraft deemed able to operate from Northolt – and turbo-props operate very effectively on sectors of the lengths envisaged – the Task Force is in no doubt substantial improvements in regional connectivity to London and Heathrow could be achieved by making use of this grossly under-utilised national asset.”
The NCTF has presented a range of scenarios in which it says Northolt could have a role to play:
As a ‘fix’ to a decision in favour of Gatwick
In the event that Gatwick is recommended as the location for a new South East runway there may yet be “a requirement for intervention” to address access from other parts of the UK to the national hub and major long haul gateway.
The Task Force’s analysis suggests that allowing more commercial flights from Northolt would not necessarily disrupt air traffic management at Heathrow or “materially increasing environmental impacts above those caused by RAF Northolt today”.
As a fall-back if expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick is blocked
If “insurmountable problems” are perceived with adding new runway capacity at either Heathrow or Gatwick this Summer then, urgent consideration should be given to converting RAF Northolt into a regional satellite of Heathrow, “otherwise regional connectivity interests stand in significant danger of being materially damaged”.
Under these circumstances, the Task Force believes that consideration could be given to RAF Northolt being made available solely for domestic scheduled airline services from cities/airports around the UK (and possibly the Republic of Ireland).
Coming just hours before the Germanwings disaster over the French Alps there has been no commentary in the national media so far on Heathrow’s endorsement of the NCTF’s recommendations.
Heathrow announces new measures to connect UK nations and regions to global growth
- New package of commitments conditional on expansion enabling up to nine new air links to Heathrow and increased frequency on seven existing routes
- New £10 million Heathrow Route Development Fund
- A review of airport charges to help play our part in keeping existing domestic routes commercially attractive to airlines
Heathrow has announced a new package of commitments deliverable with expansion, designed to connect the UK’s nations and regions to growth markets around the world. Taken together they have the potential to deliver billions of pounds worth of trade and investment opportunities, reversing a lost decade of connectivity which has seen regional connections to long-haul markets squeezed out of the UK’s hub airport.
The move comes at a time when Amsterdam Schiphol has more links to the UK’s nations and regions than Heathrow and Gatwick combined. As a result, Schiphol has gained traffic that would otherwise support new long haul routes, jobs and economic activity in the UK.
The measures would boost the seven existing routes, offering the potential for better timed and more frequent flights. In addition, our analysis indicates that passengers would be able to fly from nine domestic airports not currently served by Heathrow, meaning that a total of at least 16 regional airports will have the opportunity of direct links to the UK’s hub.
The commitments include:
- A review of airport charges to help play our part in keeping existing domestic routes commercially attractive to airlines from January 2016.
- Establishing a new Heathrow Route Development Fund. £10 million in start-up capital for airlines to support five new routes for three years.
- Partnering with UK airports, LEPs, Chambers of Commerce, national and regional governments to work with airlines to establish new domestic routes through Heathrow.
- Working with government to re-designate public service obligation (PSO) routes to Heathrow, the only airport that can connect them to and through London to growth markets across the globe.
- Working with any organisation that wants to operate Northolt as a satellite runway for UK routes until Heathrow is expanded.
The commitments announced today have been informed by the recommendations of the National Connectivity Task Force, set up in May 2014 with a remit to recommend how connectivity between the UK’s nations and regions and the major airports in the South East can be enhanced. They build on a previous announcement by easyJet that it plans to operate from an expanded Heathrow, competing on several existing domestic routes and providing new links to four airports across the UK.
Airports Commission analysis has already revealed that an expanded Heathrow will deliver up to £114bn in economic benefit outside London and the South East, double the amount that would be delivered by an expanded Gatwick.
Commenting on the commitments, John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO, said:
“Expanding Heathrow could deliver close to 80,000 jobs and up to £114 billion of GDP outside London and the South East. We have been listening to businesses, politicians and now to the National Connectivity Task Force, and today’s announcement shows that we have a plan to deliver what Britain needs. Only Heathrow can connect all of Britain to global growth. That’s why we are best for Britain and backed by Britain. Let’s get on with it.”
Saad Hammad, Chief Executive of Flybe said:
“Flybe welcomes the commitment of Heathrow to enhance regional connectivity both within current runway capacity constraints and in the event of new runway development. As the UK’s largest regional airline, operating Flybe services from 37 UK airports, we are in a prime position to connect the country via Heathrow.
Our national hub in the South East must address the needs of all the nations and regions of the UK not just those living within the boundary of the M25. Key to this is an airport pricing regime that encourages regional connectivity alongside guaranteed slot availability for regional connecting services. We are delighted that Heathrow has listened to the issues faced by the UK regions and is taking practical steps to be more inclusive.”