After exceptionally heavy rain and wind on 23rd December, Gatwick airport had serious problems with unexpected flooding, with many flights cancelled or delayed. It is still unclear to what extent actions taken at the airport to divert water from its holding ponds and prevent the airport from flooding meant more water surged down the River Mole, making flooding worse downstream in areas such as Dorking and Cobham. It is understood that investigations are under way, and councillors for Leatherhead are seeking clarifications from the airport. The local press reported that an Environment Agency spokesman had said that Gatwick airport are constructing a further water storage reservoir directly on the Gatwick stream. The Gatwick Stream, where river levels rose rapidly, meets the River Mole south of Horley. Flooded residents feared that the contents of Gatwick airport’s balancing ponds may have been dumped into the River Mole and sluice gates further down were not opened in time. The beautiful old Burford Bridge hotel, just north of Dorking, was damaged by deep floodwater.
9th January 2014 (Local Epsom Guardian)
Fallen trees, floods and power cuts cause Christmas Eve disruption
Heavy rain and winds of around 70mph battered Surrey on Monday night and Tuesday morning as a storm swept through the UK
A firefighter from Dorking Fire Station has spoken to Get Surrey about Burford Bridge Hotel which had to be evacuated earlier today.
He said: “To my knowledge, there were 33 people evacuated, including nine members of staff.”It is under control now. The water was rising pretty quickly. Cars in the car park were completely were covered completely in water.
“We were there from about 9.30am.
“There were certain complications with people with restricted mobility. Everyone got out safely.”To my knowledge no one was injured. It all went fairly smoothly.
“He said the crew had been called out to various flooding incidents throughout the night.”The most significant was there were a number of vehicles caught in the Mole at Brockham.
“There was a taxi which had two customers, I think it was a mother and a child who was 9-years-old, who were stuck on the roof of the taxi.
“It was quite an urgent matter due to the risk of hypothermia, but that was a successful rescue. “There were another two vehicles stuck there as well.
“They had tried to go over the bridge at Brockham.
“Drivers need to be very careful when approaching flood water. Do not progress otherwise you can get into trouble very quickly.”
We also have a second photo of the scene outside the flooded hotel.
A couple and their pets are rescued by boats from their home in Thorncroft Drive on Christmas Eve
Flood warnings have been issued upstream of Leatherhead along the River Mole, prompting fears among flood victims.
After overnight rain, flood warnings are in place for Mickleham, Dorking, Gatwick, Horley and Sidlow as the level of the River Mole rises. More heavy rain is forecast tonight.
Despite no warning for Leatherhead, by 2.30pm the river level had reached 2.52 metres, above the 2.4 metre level when flooding becomes possible.
Peter Ashdown, chairman of Leatherhead Football Club, whose Fetcham Grove ground was badly flooded over Christmas, said there was renewed fear.
Mr Ashdown said: “We have put sandbags up. We have just got to pray that it does not come to fruition. We have got to hope there is no more damage.
“It’s always yesterday’s rain that comes downstream.”
Flood victim Nik Cookson, who is forming the River Mole Action Group, said: “The water is rising. I hope it doesn’t rise too much.
“I hope that nobody else gets flooded, but my situation can’t get any worse. For other poor people I hope it doesn’t get to the levels that it did before. I would be amazed if it did.”
Mr Cookson said the contents of Gatwick airport’s holding ponds must not be dumped into the Mole and sluice gates further down should be opened in a timely manner.
Mr Cookson’s home in Thorncroft Drive, Leatherhead, was among the properties flooded on Christmas Eve. Gatwick airport has come under fire for how it controlled its balancing ponds during the flooding over the festive period.
The Gatwick Stream, where river levels are also rising rapidly, meets the River Mole south of Horley.
A flood alert for the River Mole said: “River levels are rising in response to overnight rainfall, in particular in the Sidlow area.
“Flooding of low lying land and roads is likely but property flooding is not currently expected. The rivers are currently very sensitive to rainfall and are responding more than usual.
“The weather forecast is for further bands of rain throughout today which may cause a further rise in river levels.”
Ministers have been forced to backtrack on claims that the flood defence spending by the Tory-led coalition was higher than under previous governments.
It has been admitted there were “some minor inconsistencies” in figures provided earlier.
Mole Valley MP Sir Paul Beresford to wait until floods over before tackling Environment Agency
Tuesday 21st January 2014
By Alice Foster, (Epsom Guardian)
Epsom Guardian: Sir Paul Beresford, Conservative MP for Mole Valley, has pledged to review the flooding
An MP who has promised to conduct a review into flooding on the River Mole said he is waiting until the current flood problems subside before quizzing the Environment Agency (EA).
Earlier this month Sir Paul Beresford, Conservative MP for Mole Valley, described the flooding as a “unique disaster” and pledged to work with Surrey County Council and the EA to review why flooding happened and how to prevent it.
But after Leatherhead flooded again at the weekend Sir Paul said it was too soon to tackle the EA about the problem or to speak to Gatwick Airport about rumours it had made the problem worse.
He said: “I want to sit down with them in calmer, slightly less watery days and get to the bottom of a whole lot of things.
“I want to get everything organised and together and put these things to them. At the moment they have got their hands full with water everywhere.
“If you have got a disaster, the last thing people dealing with the disaster want is an MP asking them questions when they are dealing with the problem.”
Sir Paul said there are a growing number of unsubstantiated stories – including barriers being put up downstream, the use of holding ponds at Gatwick and action by BAA [BAA is no longer the owner – that is GIP] – which he wants to raise with the EA.
Sir Paul said he would speak with the EA before deciding whether he needs to approach Gatwick Airport.
He said: “If you are going to shoot from the hip, take the gun out of the holster otherwise you will get holes in your feet.”
Sir Paul said he will also visit flood victims to discuss what insurance companies are doing and offer assistance if any refuse to pay out.
He said: “I will be going round houses particularly badly damaged to talk through with people what is happening.”
He said that he would be “more than happy” to listen to and work with the Mole Valley Action Group, which is being formed by Leatherhead flood victim Nik Cookson.
Sir Paul said: “It’s deeply, deeply sad and this is why we are going to have to work towards improving the flood prevention.”
The London Assembly has voted against the expansion of Heathrow and proposed greater use of existing airports in the south-east. They passed a motion -by 13 votes to 7 in response to the Airports Commission’s Interim Report recommendation (17th December) that two options for a new Heathrow 3rd runway would be short-listed. Caroline Pidgeon, the leader of the Liberal Democrats on the Assembly, who proposed the motion, said: “Airport capacity in London is currently underused; in fact some London airports have more than half of their runway slots free. Rather than inflict further misery on the residents of west London, the Airports Commission should rule out expansion of Heathrow and focus on better use of capacity at other south-east airports.” The motion backed the Commission’s proposals for improving ground transport links to existing airports. Tony Arbour, Conservative London Assembly Member for Richmond and Hounslow, proposed an amendment which said there should be a categorical opposition to any additional flights at Heathrow. He said the Lib Dem motion, which recognised the need for more airport capacity in the south-east, “opens the door for dual use of runways at Heathrow which will increase noise for millions of Londoners.” All those voting against the motion were Tories.
Assembly rejects expanded Heathrow
15 January 2014 (London Assembly press release)
The London Assembly today passed a motion[] reaffirming its opposition to the expansion of Heathrow Airport and suggesting more use could be made of spare capacity at other airports serving the South East. It was reacting to the interim report published by Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission and the options proposed for expanding Heathrow and Gatwick.
Caroline Pidgeon AM, who proposed the motion, said: “I am really disappointed to see Heathrow back on the table. Airport capacity in London is currently under-used, in fact some London airports have more than half of their runway slots free. Rather than inflict further misery on the residents of West London, the Davies Commission should rule out expansion of Heathrow and focus on better use of capacity at other South East airports.”
Valerie Shawcross AM, who amended and seconded the motion, said: “This debate has polarised London – with those affected by noise pollution on one side and the interests of the aviation industry on the other. I must add that whatever happens with regard to airport expansion, London does need a noise regulator now. Paris has one – why don’t we?”
The full text of the motion agreed at today’s meeting reads as follows:
“This Assembly notes the interim report published by Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission and the options proposed for expanding Heathrow and Gatwick. The Assembly also notes that the Estuary Airport options have not made the shortlist, though more work will be done before a final decision on shortlisting is made in the New Year.
In particular, we welcome Sir Howard Davies’ recommendations on increasing surface access at our existing airports and we note that a number of projects are now contained within the National Infrastructure Plan. Namely:
· Committing £50 million towards a full redevelopment of the railway station at Gatwick;
· Setting up a new study into Southern Rail access to Heathrow;
· Accelerating a Network Rail study into the Brighton Mainline;
· Extending the scope of the East Anglian Mainline study to include access to Stansted;
· Including the Gatwick to London route on a planned trial of smart ticketing; and
· Including access to Gatwick in the Highways Agency study on local motorways.
The London Assembly also urges the Mayor to support Sir Howard Davies’ recommendation of the establishment of an independent noise regulator for London.
The Assembly recalls its recent Transport Committee report “Airport Capacity in London” which ruled out expansion of Heathrow and identified significant spare capacity at other airports in the South East.
The Assembly reaffirms its opposition to Heathrow expansion plans and calls on the Airports Commission to rethink its approach targeting the use of spare capacity at airports serving the South East.”
Notes to editors:
1. The motion was passed 13 votes cast in favour of the motion and 7 against at a meeting of the full Assembly today. Watch the webcast.
2. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.
London Assembly Votes Against Heathrow Airport Expansion
By Thomas Penny
Jan 15, 2014 (Bloomberg)
The London Assembly voted against the expansion of Heathrow Airport, Europe’s busiest hub, and proposed greater use of existing airports in southeast England.
The assembly passed a motion by 13 votes to 7 today in response to a recommendation in an interim report published last month by Howard Davies’s Airports Commission shortlisting Heathrow alongside Gatwick, south of the capital, as suitable for expansion.
“Airport capacity in London is currently underused; in fact some London airports have more than half of their runway slots free,” Caroline Pidgeon, the leader of the Liberal Democrats on the assembly, who proposed the motion, said in an e-mailed statement. “Rather than inflict further misery on the residents of west London, the Davies Commission should rule out expansion of Heathrow and focus on better use of capacity at other southeast airports.”
The motion backed Davies’s proposals for improving ground transport links to existing airports.
The London Assembly rejected Heathrow expansion proposals at a meeting today and suggested more use be made of spare capacity at other airports.
Members passed a motion in reaction to the interim report published by Sir Howard Davies’ Airports Commission and the options proposed for expanding Heathrow and Gatwick.
Conservatives said the Lib Dem motion opened the door for more flights at Heathrow due to the support it showed for increased capacity in the south-east.
Tony Arbour, Conservative London Assembly Member for Richmond and Hounslow, proposed an amendment which said there should be a categorical opposition to any additional flights at Heathrow.
He said the Lib Dem motion, which recognised the need for more airport capacity in the south-east, “opens the door for dual use of runways at Heathrow which will increase noise for millions of Londoners.
He said: “I, and my Conservative colleagues, are unequivocally opposed to any increase in flights at Heathrow and we, unlike the Lib Dems, will not consider any concession to those who would increase the pollution that the airport brings to residents.”
Caroline Pidgeon AM, who proposed the motion, said she was disappointed to see Heathrow expansion back on the table.
She said: “Airport capacity in London is currently under-used, in fact some London airports have more than half of their runway slots free.
“Rather than inflict further misery on the residents of west London, the Davies Commission should rule out expansion of Heathrow and focus on better use of capacity at other south-east airports.”
Liberal Democrats branded Tories expansion-supporters after all Conservative members voted against the motion.
Robin Meltzer, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesman for Richmond Park, said: “It’s no longer the case that the Tories are split on Heathrow.
“Now, almost everyone they have in elected office is in favour of mass expansion or, at best, isn’t bothered. The few who are on our side of the argument are simply sidelined by their leadership.”
MP Zac Goldsmith, who has long made clear his opposition to Heathrow expansion and organised a mass protest rally against additional runways last year, hit back at Lib Dem claims, and said their failure to back Coun Arbour’s amendment meant they were standing in the way of true opposition to Heathrow expansion.
He said: “The fact remains that the Lib Dems could have removed Heathrow expansion from the terms of reference of the Airport Commission without any effort at all.
“That would have killed it off forever, but they chose not to because they see the threat as a campaign opportunity.
“Putting it mildly – for those seriously committed to stopping Heathrow expansion, the Lib Dems have been a real pain in the backside.”
THE LONDON Assembly hit out at the possible expansion of Heathrow Airport yesterday, saying a new runway would inflict unnecessary noise on nearby residents.
The Assembly voted 13 to 7 in favour of a motion opposing a larger Heathrow, calling instead for airlines to use spare capacity at other airports in the south east.
This compares to a unanimous vote on a similar motion in July 2012. Conservative members voted against the motion yesterday.
“I must add that whatever happens with regard to airport expansion, London does need a noise regulator now. Paris has one – why don’t we?” said Labour member Valerie Shawcross, who seconded the motion.
The vote came as Heathrow pledged to consult with residents near the airport about how a third runway would affect the area.
Chief executive Colin Matthews is expected to say today that he will take the views of locals into consideration when putting together Heathrow’s revised runway proposal in May.
Matthews is due to speak at the Runways UK conference, which will also hear from Sir Howard Davies, the head of the government’s aviation commission.
The commission last month shortlisted Heathrow and Gatwick as possible sites for a new runway in the coming years, while keeping alive the option of a new hub airport built in the Thames Estuary.
Airport capacity in London is currently underused, says new London Assembly report
The London Assembly’s Transport Committee has published a report – “Airport Capacity in London” – which suggests existing airport capacity in London, including at Heathrow and Gatwick, could be used more effectively. Their research shows Stansted (summer 2012) was only 47% full; Gatwick was 88% full; Luton was 49% full. At Heathrow there is terminal capacity for 20 million more passengers, so if larger planes were used, there is ample surplus capacity – though landing slots are 99% filled. To encourage passengers to switch from Heathrow, the report says improving transport access from central London to Gatwick, Luton and Stansted is needed – for example, by better rail connections and actively promoting public transport. The report questions the alleged “need” for additional hub airport capacity, as the vast majority of passengers using Heathrow few direct, point to point, rather than transferring. The report also notes that 75% of flights from Heathrow are short haul and that London remains the best connected European city to 23 fastest growing economies. The Transport Committee hopes its report will inform the Airports Commission, and says the Commission must examine whether better use of existing airport capacity could be an intelligent cost-effective alternative to building new airports or runways. http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=1789.
London Assembly restates its strong opposition to building new runways at Heathrow
In response to the publication of the Transport Select Committee report “Aviation Strategy” today, which backs expansion at Heathrow with another runway, the London Assembly restated its view that no new runways at Heathrow should be built because of serious and rising concerns about air quality and noise pollution. The Assembly has consistently opposed proposals for Heathrow expansion on the grounds that the negative environmental effects are disproportionate to the estimated benefits it might bring to London. Already some 700,000 Londoners suffer from aircraft noise due to Heathrow, and this accounts for 28% of all the people in Europe who are affected by aircraft noise. Air quality standards in the area round Heathrow already breach EU air quality limits. The Assembly has just produced its own report on airport capacity, which concluded that as there is a large amount of spare capacity at some London airports, the Airports Commission should first look at ways to use this capacity more effectively, such as improving rail links, before considering building a new runway. Luton and Stansted Airports have around half their slots free and the airline industry should be encouraged to use this existing capacity.http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=1108
London Assembly says Heathrow night flights ‘disturb sleep and should stop’
London Assembly Health & Environment Committee has submitted its response to the government consultation on night flights. The Committee, chaired by Murad Qureshi, says they would wish to see night flights stopped altogether, or reduced to an absolute minimum. At the margins “quieter” aircraft cut the disturbance for residents at the edges of the noise footprint so their introduction is of benefit. But modern ‘quieter’ aircraft are still loud enough to wake people & do so regularly after 4.30am, so their number should be reduced. The Committee says Heathrow should adopt a 59 dB Lden threshold for determining areas eligible for insulation, not the current 69 dB Leq or proposed 63 dB Lden. If night flights do continue, an easterly preference at night would help achieve more of a 50/50 split between directions, as at present more come into land from the east over London. Some night flights are because planes are delayed etc so the Committee suggests a reduction in Heathrow daytime number of ATMs would help, so flights do not have to be accommodated at night. They want Heathrow to work towards WHO guidelines; the objective should be to reduce the area within Heathrow’s 40dB night noise contour.http://www.airportwatch.org.uk/?p=2445
Residents in parts of west Kent are opposing proposals to change the flight paths at Gatwick Airport. NATS is consulting over changes to flight paths using Gatwick, which they say will reduce delays and improve efficiency. The proposals could mean up to 28 flights an hour over places like Hever, Chiddingstone, and Sevenoaks Weald. NATS claims changes to flight paths are needed, and they want to create a network with planes flying on specific routes, similar to a motorway. That may mean less noise for some people, but it will mean a lot more for those who find themselves directly under one of the routes chosen for intensive use and much more air traffic. Government guidance is for aircraft noise to affect as few people as possible (there are therefore fewer complaints) but that means an unfair amount of noise for an unlucky minority, who happen to live in the wrong place.People living in Weald village, not far from Sevenoaks, fear that there could be up to 20 flights an hour going over the village, at a height of under 4,000ft (1,200m). The noise of each could be up to 70 decibels, “which is the same as being next to a vacuum cleaner.” The changes are to allow the airport to grow.
Kent villagers oppose Gatwick flight path proposals
15 January 2014 (BBC)
The plans could mean up to 28 flights an hour over places like Hever, Chiddingstone, and Sevenoaks Weald
Residents in parts of west Kent are opposing proposals to change the flight path at Gatwick Airport.
Airspace regulators are consulting over changes to flight paths to and from the airport, which they say will reduce delays and improve efficiency.
The proposals could mean up to 28 flights an hour over places like Hever, Chiddingstone, and Sevenoaks Weald.
Paul Haskins, from National Air Traffic Control Services (NATS), said change was needed.
NATS wants to create an airspace network with planes flying on specific routes, similar to a motorway.
It said the changes were needed to ensure safety levels and the new system would mean less noise for most people.
But people under new flight paths could experience more air traffic.
Brian Saunders, from the Weald, said: “There could be up to 20 flights an hour going over our village, and these would be at a height of less than 4,000ft (1,200m) which would give a noise level up to 70 decibels, which is the same as being next to a vacuum cleaner.”
Tom Denton, from Gatwick Airport, said they had tried to open up the consultation “as widely as possible”.
He added: “The areas that we’re potentially going to change are very large areas, so the area is not specifically going to direct aircraft over Chiddingstone, it’s possible, but it’s not a done deal.
Nats general manager Mr Haskins said change was needed.
“Aircraft navigation technology has developed over the years,” he said.
“We can get aircraft climbing fast to reduce the noise impact.
“And also, it will allow us to handle increased capacity over the next 15 years or so.”
Anger of residents near Sevenoaks over NATS’ Gatwick flight plan proposals
Date added: December 29, 2013
There is currently a consultation, by NATS, on changes to flight paths to and from Gatwick (as well as London City, Southend, and Biggin Hill airports) that ends on 21st January. There is real concern in the Weald area, that is overflown by Gatwick flights, that planes may bring them flights overhead flying at less than 4,000 feet over them from 2015. NATS and Gatwick claim the changes will “make the airport more efficient, reduce delays and allow more departures per hour”, so making things more convenient for air travellers. Weald residents are outraged at the disturbance these changes, for passenger benefit, could cause them. They have formed a campaign – the Weald Action Group Against Noise – and have organised petitions. They will deliver the signatures to Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon and are urging people to contact him directly via e-mail and to object through the online Gatwick Airport and National Air Traffic Services public consultation as well. The action group fears the proposals would “bring considerably more flights directly over Weald village at a height of under 4,000 feet”, creating noise up to 70 decibels, equivalent to the sound of a vacuum cleaner, with more than 20 flights an hour at peak times.” Gatwick says “overall” the changes will reduce noise for those living below – but that ignores far worse conditions created for some.
2nd Gatwick runway could ‘spell the end’ for Hever Castle as a tourist attraction due to the relentless aircraft noise
December 14, 2013
A 2nd runway at Gatwick could “spell the end” for one of the area’s top tourist attractions, Hever Castle, which was the home of Anne Boleyn. The castle’s chief executive Duncan Leslie fears the increase in planes overhead could ruin the historic castle and gardens, due to the relentless, almost non-stop noise. To make the situation still worse, planes enter the airport’s ILS landing system close to Hever, and tend to come up into it from below, with extra engine noise, especially if simultaneously making a turn. Duncan Leslie explained that when visitors come to rural attractions they are expecting a degree of peace and tranquillity. However, with the flight path for Gatwick – just some 13 miles away – over the castle and its grounds, visitors are being deterred. Already putting on outdoor theatre is almost impossible, as the plays are interrupted every couple of minutes. A group of Chinese tour operators visiting Hever had said they were astonished that the Government allowed aircraft to fly low over Hever. A high proportion of Hever’s visitors are from overseas. Mr Leslie said: “If our internationally popular tourist attractions become noise ghettoes, it does not matter how big the airports are, we will not get more tourists coming here.” Mr Leslie has asked his local council, Sevenoaks, to oppose Gatwick’s plans for a 2nd runway. Click here to view full story…
GACC warns that new flight paths proposed by NATS and Gatwick airport could affect thousands around Gatwick
October 20, 2013 GACC has reacted strongly to proposals to revamp many of the existing flight paths around Gatwick , which have been put forward for consultation jointly by NATS and Gatwick Airport Ltd. These plans, which are nothing to do with a 2nd runway, include new flight paths over areas which are at present peaceful – in order to increase the number of aircraft able to use the runway; more concentrated flight paths based on more accurate aircraft navigation, which will effectively make life hell for many people affected; a major reform of the pattern of aircraft queuing up to land, which will bring aircraft noise to many areas currently not affected; and the possibility of ‘respite’ by using two flight paths on alternate days. This consultation includes nothing to show where the new flight paths might be. Instead it is couched in general terms, asking people to comment on broad concepts. There are no maps, and it is apparently intended that no maps will be produced until after the end of the consultation, and NATS and Gatwick do not intend to hold a second consultation. GACC is advising its members to study the new consultation and to express their views forcefully. Click here to view full story…
Airspace consultation launched by NATS and Gatwick Airport – for Gatwick, London City, Southend & Biggin Hill airport areas
Date added: October 16, 2013
NATS, the UK’s provider of air traffic services, and Gatwick Airport have started a joint consultation today on proposed airspace changes over southern England. It is called the London Airspace Consultation (LAC) and it will run for 14 weeks, until January 21st, 2014. The public can respond. The consultation is on swathes of airspace – not exact routes – which will be determined after consideration of the consultation feedback. That makes commenting difficult. NATS says this is the first stage in a wider programme of proposed changes to deliver the UK’s Future Airspace Strategy (FAS), which is being developed by the CAA. The intention is that the FAS will help airlines make efficiencies in fuel use, and perhaps reduce noise for those over-flown. New European legislation requires all member States, including the UK, to revise airspace and maximise the use of new technologies, to get noise and CO2 benefits. The current NATS consultation involves airspace around Gatwick and also London City Airport. Later stages will deal with other areas of airspace in other parts of the London airports network, and should be completed by 2020. Local residents fear the real motive is to pack in more flights.
If a large new airport is built on the Isle of Grain, Kent, as London Mayor Boris Johnson has suggested, a clash of air space would mean Southend Airport – and City Airport in London – would probably need to close, the Airports Commission has warned in its Interim Statement. They said this could reduce the options available to low cost airlines and reduce the overall gains to airport capacity over the London area overall. They said that, in particular, it would be very challenging to manage the airspace with the 3 airports. Due to last-minute lobbying by the Mayor and Daniel Moylan, the Commission agreed to look at the £112 billion Isle of Grain scheme, put forward by Wembley Stadium designer Lord Norman Foster in more detail,in the first half of 2014, before deciding whether it should be included in the final short-list consultation starting in October. Southend airport has been emphasising how much money they have already invested in the airport. Nigel Holdcroft, leader of Southend Council, said: “The development of a major airport on the Isle of Grain would have adverse economic and environmental effects on Southend.”
SOUTHEND Airport would probably have to close if a “Boris Island” airport goes ahead, a Government commission has warned.
If a large new airport is built on the Isle of Grain, Kent, as London Mayor Boris Johnson has suggested, a clash of air space would mean Southend Airport – and City Airport in London – would likely need to close, the Airports Commission has warned.
The body, which is looking into how to increase airport capacity in the south east, warned this could reduce the options available to low cost airlines and reduce the overall gains to capacity over the London area overall.
In an interim report, chairman Sir Howard Davies said: “The interaction of any Isle of Grain airport with the wider London airspace system would also be challenging. As a result, although such an airport would represent a significant increase over Heathrow’s current capacity, the increase would not be as great at a system wide level.
“In particular, it would be very challenging to manage the interactions between arrivals and departures at the new airport and those at London City, suggesting the latter would have to close.
“An Isle of Grain airport would also be likely to require the closure of Southend Airport, reducing the options available to low cost carriers in the south east of England.”
The Airports Commission, which will make its final recommendations in 2015, failed to include an estuary airport in its interim shortlist in December due to “uncertainties and challenges” over its design.
But the commission agreed to look at the £112billion scheme, put forward by Wembley Stadium designer Lord Norman Foster in more details before deciding whether it should be included in the final report this year.
David Lister, operations director of Southend Airport, said: “We have been calling on the Airports Commission, and the Department of Transport charged with implementing the interim recommendations, not to forget what the Essex airport has to offer.
“With no new runways proposed before 2030 and the opening in January 2014 of Southend Airport’s extended terminal – the culmination of over £120million investment – Southend Airport is in the unique position to provide travellers to and from London, the ‘simply easier’ travelling experience.
“Our investment demonstrates the significant capacity which now exists at Southend and we can make a real difference to the congestion issues faced across the other London airports.
“We hope they would consider all this in their deliberations over the future of air capacity in the south east.”
Nigel Holdcroft, leader of Southend Council, said: “The development of a major airport on the Isle of Grain would have adverse economic and environmental effects on Southend.
“While the ability of Southend Airport to continue to operate in such circumstances is a matter of debate, the new airport would inevitably attract investment and regeneration from south Essex to north Kent and would also add yet further stress to the already overloaded public infrastructure in south east England.”
Airports Commission publishes interim report with 2 options for a runway at Heathrow and 1 at Gatwick. Estuary still being considered
December 17, 2013
The Airports Commission’s interim report has put forward 3 options for a new runway, and have kept their options open on an estuary airport. There would only be one runway, not two and they consider this should be in operation before 2030. At Heathrow the choices are a north west runway, 3,500 metres long, destroying Harmondsworth; and an extension westwards of at least 3,000 metres, of the existing northern runway. They also consider a wide spaced Gatwick runway to the south. The Commission also says “there is likely to be a demand case for a 2nd additional runway to be operational by 2050.” They claim this is “consistent with the Committee of Climate Change’s advice to government on meeting its legislated climate change targets.” Stansted is ruled out, and on the Thames Estuary they say: “The Commission has not shortlisted any of the Thames Estuary options because there are too many uncertainties and challenges surrounding them at this stage. It will undertake further study of the Isle of Grain option in the first half of 2014 and will reach a view later next year on whether that option offers a credible proposal for consideration alongside the other short-listed options.” The report also contains recommendations to the government for immediate action to improve the use of existing runway capacity. Among others, these include better airspace organisation and surface transport improvements such as enhancement of Gatwick station, a rail link from the south to Heathrow, and a rail link between Heathrow and Stansted. Click here to view full story…
Heathrow and Gatwick have both reported growth in passenger numbers for 2013. Traffic at Heathrow reached 72.3 million, an increase of 3.4% on 2012, Aircraft movements totalled 469,552 for the year at Heathrow, which was down 0.4% on 2012. Colin Matthews used the figures as another opportunity to put in a plug for another Heathrow runway, saying Heathrow is full [but it keeps adding passengers – its terminals are not full, though its runways are nearly full] and so Heathrow has to watch other European airports adding more flights. Heathrow said BRIC passengers were up 6.9% over the year, with China up 18.9%, and India up 8.7%. Meanwhile at Gatwick traffic reached 35.4 million passengers in 2013, an increase of 3.6% on 2012. Gatwick’s aircraft movements totalled 244,552, which was a rise of 1.6% on 2012. Gatwick said its European routes were the main source of its growth, and they were increasing the number of long-haul routes, with more flights to Dubai. There will be a daily A380 service to Dubai from Gatwick from March.” Gatwick had fewer charter flights to European leisure destinations, reflecting the longer-term market move towards scheduled, low cost airlines. Heathrow load factor was 76.4% and Gatwick’s 79.4%.
Heathrow traffic and business commentary December 2013
13 January, 2014
– Heathrow handled 72.3m passengers over 2013, an increase of 3.4% on 2012.
– Taking account the dip in demand from the Olympic Games, underlying growth is estimated at 2.3%
– Seats per aircraft increased 2.8% on 2012 and the average load factor was 76.4%, up 1 percentage point. Passengers per aircraft rose 3.7% to 154.8.
– European traffic in 2013 grew 4.4%, in part a ‘bounce back’ from the Olympics and also benefitting from the integration of bmi into British Airways’ network.
– BRIC passengers were up 6.9% over the year, with China up 18.9%, and India up 8.7%.
– 5.8 million passengers passed through Heathrow in December 2013, up 2.8% on the previous year.
– Seats per aircraft increased 2.6% and load factors were up 1.3 percentage points on last year, to 76.7%. Passengers per aircraft increased 5.2% to 158.9.
– BRIC passengers were up by 6.1% overall, with China up 18.6%, India up 6.7% and Brazil up 4.4%.
Heathrow CEO Colin Matthews said:
“During 2013 Heathrow was named the best large airport in Europe, T5 was voted the ‘world’s best terminal’ for the second year running and we welcomed the Airports Commission’s shortlisting of Heathrow as an option for expansion. Our passenger figures reflect the growing demand for the long-haul destinations only a hub airport can support. Yet Heathrow is full, leaving European hubs to add destinations whilst we look on. We are not against expansion at Gatwick, but greater point to point capacity is no substitute for new hub capacity which only Heathrow can provide.”
2013 72,332,900 (up + 3.4% on 2012)
2012 69,983,139 (up + 0.9% on 2011)
2011 69,390,628 (up + 5.5% on 2010)
2010 65,745,000 (almost no change on 2009)
2009 65,908,000 (down – 1.5% on 2008)
2008 66,907,000 (down -1% on 2007)
London Gatwick traffic results for December 2013
13 January 2014
Gatwick saw a 4.8% increase in passengers year-on-year
Over 2.3 million passengers passed through the airport in December
Emirates announces it will fly a daily A380 service between Gatwick and Dubai from March
December 2013 traffic performance summary
Moving Annual Total
Total terminal passengers (000s)
UK + Channel Islands
Other long haul
Air transport movements
Cargo (metric tonnes)
Note: Origins and destinations are classified according to ultimate origin or destination of aircraft in the case of multi-sector flights.
London Gatwick saw 2.3 million passengers use the airport in December 2013; an increase of 4.8% or 108,700 passengers over the prior year.
The growth in European routes continued with over 1.4 million passengers choosing to fly from London Gatwick to Europe – an increase of 7.8% over the prior year. The majority of this growth was on flights to key business routes with destinations such as Moscow, Istanbul, Barcelona and Copenhagen adding over 66,000 passengers. This was tempered by fewer passengers on charter flights to European leisure destinations, reflecting the longer-term market move towards scheduled, low cost airlines.
The reported loss of traffic to North America, down 17.7%, was nearly all due to US Airways ceasing services from London Gatwick earlier in the year. Next summer will see a boost to Gatwick’s transatlantic services with the launch of Norwegian’s low cost, long haul routes to New York, Los Angeles and Fort Lauderdale.
Other long haul growth was up 5.3%, mainly as a result of increases on leisure routes such as Thailand and Sri Lanka. This was complemented by growth on long haul business routes such as to Dubai and Baghdad. For domestic traffic, increases on the Belfast, Glasgow and Isle of Man routes were offset by the withdrawal of the Manchester route.
Load factors – showing how full the average flight was – were at 79.4%, 1.3 percentage points above the prior year.
Nick Dunn, Chief Financial Officer at London Gatwick said:
“European travel, particularly on business routes, continues to steadily grow at Gatwick with passengers making the most of our extensive choice of key European destinations – the largest on offer of any UK airport. This, coupled with our fast, direct connections into central London and the City, means we are rapidly developing our reputation as a business travel airport in the UK and overseas.
“Alongside European growth, we continue to see strong performance in long haul, particularly on established routes to the Middle East such as Dubai. This route will be further strengthened by December’s announcement that Emirates will fly a daily A380 service to Dubai from March.”
A legal challenge to the government’s decision to allow the expansion of Lydd Airport in Kent is to be heard at the High Court on on 23rd and 24th January. The £25m project includes a runway extension of almost 300m (328yds) and a new terminal building. The airport site is close to the Dungeness nuclear plant, an RSPB nature reserve and a military range. The RSPB and Lydd Airport Action Group (LAAG) have lodged separate appeals against the expansion. After several years going through the planning process, the airport got planning permission in April 2013. LAAG has said the expansion would damage “the unique natural habitats on Romney Marsh and urbanise this important rural area”. LAAG also fear that the introduction of heavy aircraft such as the Boeing 737s “raised the probability of an aircraft accident at the Dungeness nuclear power complex leading to a serious radiological release to unacceptably high levels”. The RSPB said Dungeness was “one of the most important wildlife sites in the world and protected at global, European and UK levels”.
14 January 2014 (BBC)
Lydd Airport: Legal challenge to expansion plans
Lydd Airport bosses want the airport to take up to 500,000 passengers a year
A legal challenge to the government’s decision to allow the expansion of Lydd Airport in Kent is to be heard at the High Court later this month.
The £25m project includes a runway extension of almost 300m (328yds) and a new terminal building.
Campaigners are opposed to the expansion as the site is close to the Dungeness nuclear plant, an RSPB nature reserve and a military range.
The RSPB and Lydd Airport Action Group (LAAG) have lodged separate appeals.
LAAG’s bid to quash the decision will be heard at the High Court on 23 and 24 January.
The airport, also known as London Ashford Airport, was given permission to expand last April
Its new terminal would be capable of handling up to 500,000 passengers a year.
Officials said the plans would create jobs, boost tourism and revive a long-standing economic blackspot as well as provide much-needed additional airport capacity in the south-east of England.
LAAG has said the expansion would damage “the unique natural habitats on Romney Marsh and urbanise this important rural area”.
It claims the introduction of heavy aircraft such as the Boeing 737s also “raised the probability of an aircraft accident at the Dungeness nuclear power complex leading to a serious radiological release to unacceptably high levels”.
The RSPB said Dungeness was “one of the most important wildlife sites in the world and protected at global, European and UK levels”.
High Court Hearing to Quash Lydd Airport Decision Imminent
Lydd Airport Action Group’s (LAAG’s) High Court Appeal to quash the government’s decision to grant LyddAirport permission to extend its runway and build a new terminal to support 500,000 passengers per annum will be heard on Thursday January 23rd and Friday January 24th, 2014. The RSPB is also appealing separately and their hearing will be held on the previous two days.
The decision to approve the development was made on April 10th, 2013 by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Transport.
The Hearing will be at the Royal Courts of Justice and is open to the public.
LAAG is represented by Matthew Horton QC.
Notes to editors:
· Lydd Airport is owned by Sheikh Fahad al-Athel, a Saudi businessman.
· Lydd Airport submitted a planning application in December 2006 to both extend the runway at Lydd by 444metres and build a new terminal to accommodate up to 500,000 passengers per annum (ppa.). This is Phase 1 of a longer term plan to increases passenger numbers to 2mpppa.
The airport was unlawfully granted planning permission by Shepway District Council on March 3, 2010. Following over 14,000 letters in protest, the Secretary of State called in the decision for review by a Public Inquiry in June 2010. The public inquiry was conducted from February 15th, 2011 to September 16th, 2011. LAAG’s case centred heavily on the nuclear safety issue. Our evidence shows that the probability of an aircraft accident at the Dungeness Nuclear complex resulting from airport expansion would be unacceptably high and that the nuclear regulator’s decision not to oppose LyddAirport’s development was flawed.
During 2012 four additional consultations took place to review new evidence on nuclear safety. This added to the body of material already available which showed: the model on which the ONR based its decision is not fit for purpose, particularly when applied to the complex operating environment at Lydd, there are major errors in the application of this model to the Lydd Airport/Dungeness situation and that the ONR has failed to be accountable in the face of the challenge to the basis of its regulatory decision.
· A formal complaint to the European Commission over the nuclear safety aspects of this planning application has resulted in the European Commission investigating the UK Government under the EU Pilot Mechanism for possible infringements of the Nuclear Safety Directive. The investigation is on-going.
LAAG is an action group formed in 2004 to oppose the large scale development of Lydd airport. LAAG has ~3000 members.
Legal challenge to airport expansion to be heard next week
Comment by MEP Keith Taylor:
The airport, also known as London Ashford Airport, is said to be under one of the largest migratory bird routes in the south of England, with fears that its growth could lead to more bird strikes.
The decision to approve the development was made on April 10th, 2013 by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and the Secretary of State for Transport.
The Hearing will be at the Royal Courts of Justice and is open to the public.
Keith Taylor, Green MEP for the South East, said:
“Any expansion of Lydd airport, in an area of global importance for wildlife and next door to a nuclear power station, is clearly bad news.
The Government is hell-bent on airport expansion but local people, whose lives will be blighted by increased pollution and noise, are right to stand up against these plans.
We know that airport expansions will contribute to climate change, and we know that a larger airport at Lydd will threaten both the wildlife in the area and the peace and quiet enjoyed by local people.
Lydd airport expansion shouldn’t go ahead and I wish campaigners the best of luck in their legal challenge to the Government’s ideological obsession with expanding airports at any cost.
Lydd Airport expansion plans to be shown off at Dubai Airport Show and other international shows
May 7, 2013 The owners of Lydd Airport, Lydd Holdings, is exhibiting the plans for their 294 metre runway extension, plus a 150-metre starter extension and an new terminal building, in Dubai. There is the Dubai Airport Show taking place, and Lydd Holdings are showing off their plans to delegates from some 200 companies from 32 countries. Lydd Holidngs is to invest £25million into the development, and has already spent £35m upgrading the site over the last year including installing a new executive terminal with VIP facilities, improved passenger check-in and security and a new departure lounge. They will be promoting the airport at other international aviation shows this year, including the EBACE (European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition), later in May. Currently the airport has begun to work on the pre-development conditions, which include things like carrying out baseline biodiversity surveys (water voles, bats, lizards, grass snakes etc), and a Carbon Management Action Plan for the ground operational vehicles etc. The airport may not start the terminal until the runway extension is started. Click here to view full story…
Lydd airport: will it find enough passenger demand, or is its business plan nonsensical?
April 25, 2013 Gwyn Topham, in the Guardian, speculates on whether the government granting planning permission to Lydd airport is an indication to their thinking on airport expansion in general. The decision came relatively soon after publication of the aviation policy framework in March which reiterated the idea of growth elsewhere to take pressure off London’s main airports. And it may be connected to Osborne’s budget talking up infrastructure and its impact on the economy. Approval has been given for up to 500,000 passengers a year, though Lydd will struggle to get anywhere near that. They hope to eventually be able to use the railway track that carries nuclear waste from Dungeness to link passengers to Ashford’s high-speed train – a 37-minute journey to London, albeit expensive. Though Lydd would like to get easyJet, as Southend has, but it is more likely to expand the executive jet service. And they hope when Gatwick is full and wants more A380, it will kick out the smaller planes, which will then find Lydd useful. That will take a while … and currently the lack of demand makes the Lydd business plan nonsensical. Click here to view full story…
Lydd airport expansion: planning advice is ignored over building near nuclear sites
April 14, 2013 Writing in the Observer, Jamie Doward points out that Ministers have chosen to ignore warnings that residential and commercial property should not be built too close to the UK’s nuclear power plants. Documents released under FoI show that the government rejected advice from the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), regarding the lessons to be learned following the Fukushima disaster. The ONR recommended restricting development near nuclear plants, advice that was overridden last week when the government approved the expansion of Lydd. A legal challenge is already underway against this decision. Lydd Airport Action Group (LAAG) did not wait for the decision by Ministers, as they had anticipated the worst and worked on a case last year. The European Commission accepted the case and has already started infringement proceedings under the pilot mechanism. Environmental NGOs have condemned the government decision to expand Lydd saying any benefits from the airport would be far outweighed by the environmental damage to the area, and expansion would irreversibly damage specially protected areas nearby. Click here to view full story…
Lydd Airport expansion plans given government approval
April 10, 2013 Plans to expand Lydd airport have been approved by the government following a pubic inquiry. This tiny airport, on Dungensss and close to a nuclear power station, has ambitions to handle half a million passengers per year, and wants an extended runway and a new airport terminal. Shepway District Council gave permission for the expansion in 2010 but the application was called for a public inquiry. Now both Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government (Pickles) and for Transport (McLoughlin) have approved the development – subject to environmental, noise and traffic conditions. The safety issue of an airport so close to a nuclear facility have not been examined fully or properly at the inquiry. The main opposition group, the Lydd Airport Action Group (LAAG) has fought tenaciously on the nuclear issue for years, and the European Commission has already started infringement proceedings under the pilot mechanism relating to the Nuclear Safety Directive. The government is also liable to legal challenge due to infringements of the EU Habitats Directive. Click here to view full story…
UK government risks infringing nuclear safety legislation over Lydd Airport
March 25, 2013 Lydd Airport submitted a planning application in December 2006 for a 444 metre extension to its runway and a new terminal to increase its passenger numbers from below 3,000 in 2005 to 500,000 passengers per annum. It ultimately wants the number to rise to 2 million per year. The planning application was taken to public inquiry in 2011, and since then, a decision has been awaited, from Eric Pickles, Minister at DCLG. However, the issue of the proximity of Lydd airport to the Dungeness nuclear power station has always been a serious problem. The Lydd Area Action Group (LAAG) has challenged the manner in which the nuclear issue has been handled by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). Now LAAG say that should the government approve the development of Lydd Airport without holding the ONR to account on a range of matters and satisfactorily answering the questions put to it by the European Commission, it ultimately faces the possibility of the case being referred to the European Court of Justice. Click here to view full story…
Lydd Airport: Wind turbines, a new airport and an atomic plant threaten historic wetlands
March 24, 2013 Observer article by Jamie Doward.
A decision on whether to allow major expansion of Lydd airport, less than three miles from the Dungeness nuclear power station, may be imminent. It has been delayed for years. The decision will be made by the Sec of State, Eric Pickles. However, there are many issues that make allowing Lydd airport, which is owned by an Arab sheikh, to expand very problematic. First there is the issue of the nuclear power station at Dungeness B, the operators of which (EDF) opposed the application. Many local residents are also opposed to more local wind farms. The battle over the future of Romney Marsh offers a snapshot of the dilemmas facing a government struggling to reconcile job-friendly “grand projects” with commitments to reduce carbon emissions and preserve the integrity of the countryside. Click here to view full story…
Lydd Airport: Nuclear regulator forced to review aircraft crash risk
July 25, 2012 The nuclear regulator, the Office for Nuclear Regulation, acknowledges that if a large aircraft were to accidentally crash onto the Dungeness nuclear site it has the potential to cause its most severe ‘Target 9′ accident, killing more than 100 people. Over the last 5 years its rationale for not objecting to the proposed expansion of nearby Lydd Airport is an assertion that the probability of such an accident is low enough to be ignored. This is despite the development introducing larger, heavier planes than the small aircraft which operate from Lydd today. Finally, the ONR now admits that it may have “got it wrong”. As a result it has decided to set up a technical advisory panel to take a grass roots review of the model as well as consider a proposal to introduce a minimum separation policy as the only robust way of managing this large scale accident risk. Click here to view full story…
New report shows the UK nuclear regulator was wrong in not opposing Lydd Airport’s planning application
April 24, 2012 A decision on whether to allow expansion of Lydd airport was due in March 2012 from Eric Pickles, but this has been delayed for an unknown length of time. Meanwhile, the Lydd Airport Action Group has commissioned a new report from a doctor at Imperial College that shows the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) was wrong to conclude that the probability of an accident at Dungeness resulting from the introduction of heavy aircraft taking off and landing from Lydd Airport would be so low that it could be ignored. The Imperial College study showed that Dungeness A, which ceased power generation in 2006, would still be a risk if hit by a plane. Dungeness B, which is still working, would be a safety risk, being only 3 miles from the airport, and built before any consideration was given to the risk of a hit by a heavy aircraft. Click here to view full story…
Anger that Inspector’s decision on Lydd airport will not be publicised yet
March 8, 2012 Government inspector Ken Barton chaired the 7-month inquiry into Lydd Airport’s expansion plans in 2011. This probably cost the tax payer up to £250,000. The decision has to be made by 14th March. However, it has been announced that this will not be made public until after ministers Eric Pickles and Justine Greening have made their decision. And there is no deadline by which they have to do so. There is speculation that they may not decide until next year, perhaps because the national aviation policy consultation starts by the end of this month, and this will have a bearing on whether expansion on Lydd is acceptable. There is local anger and frustration that the decision is being kept secret. Click here to view full story…
Lydd Airport. Project runway: carving up the Kent marshes
Decision by Eric Pickles due in March
February 26, 2012 In a long and comprehensive article in the Observer Magazine, Jamie Doward looks at the issues involved in proposed expansion of Lydd airport, to take up to 2 million passengers – a massive growth from its current, sleepy state with around 1,000 passenger per year. The area is of immense wildlife value, being a NNR, SSSI, SPA and SAC. A decision by government is due in about a fortnight. The article says: ” If Pickles approves the airport’s expansion he will be going against the government’s adviser, Natural England, Shepway’s planning officers, the majority of Lydd’s residents, the scientific consensus on the need to reduce carbon emissions, the prime minister’s perceived green credentials and the coalition’s belief in empowering communities as enshrined in its much-vaunted localism act.” If government does approve it, “The whole character of the place would change because, as studies show, airports lead to urbanisation.” Click here to view full story…
and there is more Lydd Airport news going back even further at
Newquay Airport costs owner Cornwall Council about £3m a year in subsidies. It is not likely to make much profit just from its airport activities. It is now suggested the site could be used some of the time as a venue for rock concerts to help balance the books. However, a problem is the poor road links. It might also have go-kart racing and other activities, and has in the past held car shows, eco-car races, police driver training and filming of TV and commercials. Last year passenger numbers at Newquay airport fell, for a 5th consecutive year, to 174,000, down from 431,000 in 2008/9. The airport, a former military base, was hit by Ryanair and Air Southwest pulling their flights in 2011. In autumn 2014 Newquay will lose its route to Gatwick when Flybe is set to pull out, saying the service it is not viable. The whole airport area is about 861 acres, of which some 650 acres is an Enterprise Zone and 231 acres is development land, occupied by commercial companies. 87 acres is a solar park. Newquay is also paid by the government to stay open as an emergency airfield. The runway is one of the largest in the country so any plane can land there, as one of the first possible sites for planes coming in from the west.
Could Newquay airport become a rock venue?
11 January 2014 (BBC)
Newquay Airport ‘could become a rock concert venue’
Newquay Airport costs owner Cornwall Council about £3m a year in subsidies
A Cornwall councillor has suggested the loss-making Newquay Airport could become a rock concert venue to help balance the books.
Cornwall Council, the airport’s owner, subsidises the airport with about £3m a year.
But UKIP councillor Harry Blakeley said there was “no reason at all” why the airport could not host concerts, go-kart racing and other activities.
Cornwall Council said space was limited at the airport.
Last year passenger numbers at the airport fell for a fifth year in a row to 174,000, down from 431,000 in 2008/9.
The airport, a former military base, was hit by Ryanair and Air Southwest pulling their flights in 2011.
And there is concern that the airport’s links with Gatwick will end in the autumn when Flybe is set to pull out, saying the service it is not viable.
Councillor Blakeley said it was “big enough” for concerts. “The only downside is road access which isn’t good,” he said. “There are huge tracts of land and a go-kart area is probably an acre or an acre and a half. A lot of people would spend good money to have international facilities there.”
He also suggested kite boarding.
“A lot of small drops make an ocean,” he said.
Councillor Adam Paynter, cabinet member for partnerships, which helps oversee the airport on the Independent-Liberal Democrat controlled council, said they would consider the proposal.
But he added: “The total acreage is about 861 acres – it is a big area but a lot is the Enterprise Zone which is 650 acres and 231 acres is development land, occupied by commercial companies and 87 acres is the solar park.
“We also get paid by the government to stay open as an emergency airfield. The runway is one of the largest in the country so any plane can land there.”
Health and safety problems made it “very difficult” for the airport to host thousands of people at a concert, he added.
“The difficulty is keeping people apart from the commercial activities,” he said. “The site is really not big enough.”
The airport has already hosted car shows, eco-car races, police driver training and has been used for filming TV and commercials.
Income from these activities has risen from £80,000 in 2008 to more than £350,000 this year.
Plans to build a hard runway and associated infrastructure at Redhill Aerodrome have been under examination this week at a Public Inquiry. The inquiry will continue into next week. The aerodrome currently has two grass runways but the owners want a hard runway to allow for larger aircraft, longer flying hours and year-round flying. They have made a succession of planning applications, all of which have been refused. The airfield is wholly within the Green Belt and is reached by narrow, winding lanes. The vast majority of local residents oppose it, as do the local MPs, Parish Councils, conservation groups and Surrey Green Party. The Inquiry has been packed and lively. Officers from Reigate & Banstead and Tandridge Councils defended the decision to refuse the runway, and individuals and representatives of local groups raised a very wide range of reasons for objecting, including noise, traffic and road safety, disruption of views and flooding. Green Belt is a key issue, as is the importance of “localism” so if local people are strongly against a proposal, that should mean it is rejected. The Inspector’s decision will be made some after the end of the inquiry.
Plans to build a hard runway and associated infrastructure at Redhill Aerodrome have been under examination this week at a Public Inquiry.
The aerodrome currently has two grass runways but the owners want a hard runway to allow for larger aircraft, longer flying hours and year-round flying. They have made a succession of planning applications, all of which have been refused.
The airfield is wholly within the Green Belt and is reached by narrow, winding lanes. The vast majority of local residents oppose it, as do the local MPs, Parish Councils, conservation groups and Surrey Green Party.
Local Greens have supported residents campaigning against the hard runway, and taken part in the Inquiry, which has run for four days so far and continues next week.
Noise, traffic, views, flooding….
The Inquiry has been packed and lively. Officers from Reigate & Banstead and Tandridge Councils defended the decision to refuse the runway, and individuals and representatives of local groups raised a very wide range of reasons for objecting, including noise, traffic and road safety, disruption of views and flooding.
Three key issues
Green Cllr Jonathan Essex spoke on Thursday. His speech covered three main areas:
Green Belt: the hard runway, taxiways and associated development would reduce the ‘Green Belt gap’ between South Nutfield, Whitebushes and Earlswood.
Sustainable Economic Growth: The aerodrome’s owners are arguing that the economic growth and jobs they hope to create with a hard runway outweigh the harm to the Green Belt. Jonathan argued that national planning policy refers to “sustainable economic growth”, which prioritises living within the planet’s environmental limits and ensuring a strong, healthy and just society.
Localism: The Government’s localism policy means that one of the reasons we might now allow building in the Green Belt is if local people express that that is the way they would like to see sustainable economic growth in their community. If the locals are strongly against a proposal, that should surely mean it is rejected.
The aerodrome’s case
The aerodrome’s witnesses tried to dismiss concerns and claim that the aerodrome would have to close if it could not gain a hard runway – this despite the fact that the majority of jobs on the site are not related to aviation.
Under cross-examination, the aerodrome chief executive, Ann Bartaby, conceded that they will look for more helicopter business in the event of the planning application not going through, thus undermining the case that a hard runway is needed for the business to survive.
Not forgetting the climate
Greens also object to the intensification of flying at Redhill on climate grounds – any increase in flying is undesirable in terms of carbon dioxide emissions. However this did not form part of the reasons why the hard runway application was turned down, so was not an issue for debate at the Inquiry.
The Inquiry continues into next week. The Inspector will then consider all the evidence she has seen and heard, and come to a decision.
Building a concrete runway to replace grass at a Surrey airfield would help businesses cope with bad weather, it has told a public inquiry.
The owners of Redhill Aerodrome say replacing its three grass runways would protect 140 jobs and create 120 more.
Reigate and Banstead and Tandridge councils both rejected the scheme last year, saying the plans were inappropriate for the green belt.
The airfield flooded as a result of heavy storms in the last two weeks.
“At the moment we have a grass runway which gets waterlogged incredibly easily,” chief executive Ann Bartaby told the BBC.
“Any downpour at any time of the year can close our runway and that makes it incredibly difficult for the businesses that are trying to make a living on the aerodrome because they cant predict when they are going to be able to fly.”
The four-day public inquiry at the Harlequin Centre was due to end on Friday but may continue into next week.
Business leaders say transport and infrastructure are essential for the local economy.
“The jobs that are coming from this development and the existing jobs there are essential,” said Jeremy Taylor, from the Gatwick Diamond Business Association.
” I just wish the people in this area would embrace the opportunity rather than go against it.”
Residents groups and Surrey Campaign for the Protection of Rural England are among objectors who have given evidence to the inquiry.
They say intensified use of the airfield will lead to problems of noise, light pollution and increased traffic and that it would be out of character in the rural location.
Reigate Conservative MP Crispin Blunt is also speaking. He, and East Surrey MP Sam Gyimah, are both against the hard runway.
Planning inspector Diane Lewis has said she will look at particularly at the effect of the proposed development on nearby Salfords Primary School and air traffic safety.
Redhill aerodrome hard runway application public inquiry to last several days
January 7, 2014
Redhill Aerodrome has for years been trying to get a hard surfaced runway, to replace its current grass runway, so it can operate larger planes and it can also operate in wet weather. Their application has been rejected, most recently in June 2013 by both Tandridge and Reigate & Banstead councils. The public inquiry into the hard runway plans takes place on 7th January 2014, in Redhill, and will last several days. As well as the two district councils opposing the plans, they are also being fought by two parish councils and the local campaign group, KRAG. The extent of the damage to the Green Belt, and to the local community, is a key issue in the Inquiry. “One of the 5 purposes of Green Belt policy is to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment. The introduction of the proposed development would not assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment; it would conflict with that purpose.” The jobs argument is being used by the airport’s legal team, which claims a hard runway would secure the 140 on-site jobs and create120 more jobs by 2030. The local community group, Keep Redhill Aerodrome Green branded the Aerodrome’s case as “weak” and “contains numerous assumptions, unsubstantiated statements, omissions and factors which remain unproven.”
June 7, 2013 Councillors have thrown out plans for a hard runway at Redhill Aerodrome because it would “scar” the landscape. The aerodrome currently only has grass runways, so cannot operate in bad weather. But the aerodrome’s owners, RAV, say they will appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. Both Tandridge and Reigate & Banstead councils decisively rejected the plans to build a 1,349m-long concrete runway . A planning officer’s report had recommended councillors reject the scheme on the grounds of inappropriate development in the green belt. The new runway would have enabled the air field to increase air traffic movements by about 72% by flying in wet weather. The applicant had “dismally failed” to argue a case of special circumstances in order to gain approval to develop green belt. Opponents said 90% of households were against the hard surfaced runway, and a local councillor agreed with many residents in saying that there was “no merit” to the application which would “spoil the rural area” if given approval. Click here to view full story…
The CAA has published its final decisions on economic regulation at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted after April 2014. They say the new situation, with each airport having a different owner, reflects the unique circumstances of individual airports. Considering the market power of each airport means passengers would not benefit from further regulation of Stansted, but that Heathrow and Gatwick will both need further airport licences from April 2014 onwards. Current landing charges are £20.71 per passenger at Heathrow and £8.80 (2014 prices) at Gatwick. CAA says: “At Heathrow, the CAA’s price control decision will see prices fall in real terms by 1.5% per year between 2014 and 2019 (RPI-1.5%). This has changed from the CAA’s Final Proposals published in October, which suggested prices rising in line with inflation. The changes have been made as passenger traffic forecasts have strengthened since October, and the cost of capital has been revised. The CAA supports more diversity in what Gatwick offers to its various airlines, so passengers receive a tailored service. It has therefore based regulation on the airport operator’s own commitments to its airline customers.” Heathrow is deeply displeased. Gatwick is mildly displeased. Stansted is happy. Ryanair’s share value fell. . Tweet
“Good news for air passengers as prices set to fall at UK’s largest airports”
10 January 2014 (CAA press release)
The UK Civil Aviation Authority has today published its final decisions on economic regulation at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted after April 2014 – with passengers benefiting from lower prices and high service standards.
The decisions announced today have been made using powers set out in the Civil Aviation Act 2012, which requires a more flexible approach so regulation reflects the unique circumstances of individual airports. The CAA has therefore assessed the market power of Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted (passenger market only for Stansted). It has decided passengers would not benefit from further regulation of Stansted, but that Heathrow and Gatwick will both require airport licences from April 2014 onwards. More details about today’s decisions are set out below:
At Heathrow, the CAA’s price control decision will see prices fall in real terms by 1.5% per year between 2014 and 2019 (RPI-1.5%). This has changed from the CAA’s Final Proposals published in October, which suggested prices rising in line with inflation. The changes have been made as passenger traffic forecasts have strengthened since October, and the cost of capital has been revised.
This decision places affordability centre-stage, while ensuring there is still a supportive environment for capital expenditure (with provision for nearly £3bn of investment).
The CAA supports more diversity in what Gatwick offers to its various airlines, so passengers receive a tailored service. It has therefore based regulation on the airport operator’s own commitments to its airline customers. These and various airport-airline contracts cover price, service quality, investment and other issues normally covered by a regulatory settlement, and should enable a more flexible and commercial approach.
The CAA is backing the commitments with a licence, to allow the CAA to step in to protect users, for instance if there are reductions in service quality that are against the passenger interest. The CAA will monitor the application of the new framework to ensure that prices are fair and that service quality is sustained. The licence will also provide for CAA scrutiny of most second runway costs before they can be passed on to airlines and passengers.
The airport licences will ensure that issues like cleanliness, queuing times, seating availability and information provision are addressed in the passenger interest. For the first time, there will be a requirement for Heathrow and Gatwick airports to put in place robust plans to ensure they are better prepared for disruption and can manage it effectively when it does occur.
The CAA has completed its assessment for Stansted’s passenger market, taking into account the long-term contracts the airport now has in place with its main airline customers, and determined that the airport does not have substantial market power. This means the airport will not be economically regulated by the CAA from April 2014 onwards. We will publish our decision on Stansted’s cargo market power before the end of March 2014.
Commenting on the decisions, Dame Deirdre Hutton, Chair of the CAA said:
“Today’s decisions are good news for air passengers. They will see prices fall, whilst still being able to look forward to high service standards, thanks to a robust licensing regime. London’s airports have benefited from substantial investment over the past decade, which has created world-class facilities for passengers. But prices have risen substantially in that time, with service quality sometimes failing to match the standards passengers have every right to expect.
“We have focused on putting the passengers’ interest at the heart of our decisions and today’s announcement means passengers can look forward to lower prices and high service quality from London’s busiest airports.”
• An overview of the CAA’s decisions for the airports can be seenhere, with links through to the separate documents:
• The decision document for each airport along with several associated documents can be found here:
• A briefing about airport economic regulation, setting out why regulation is necessary and the CAA’s approach is availablehere:
For more information contact the CAA press office on 020 7453 6030.
Notes to Editors
1. Airport licences for Gatwick and Heathrow are currently due to be published on 14 February 2014 and would then come into effect from 1 April 2014 (subject to appeal).
2. The CAA is the UK’s specialist aviation regulator. Its activities include: making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards; preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency; planning and regulating all UK airspace; and regulating airports, air traffic services and airlines and providing advice on aviation policy.
Heathrow’s response to CAA’s Q6 price control decision
10 January, 2014 (Heathrow airport press release)
Today the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has published its decision on the economic regulation of Heathrow, cutting airport charges by RPI -1.5% from 2014-2019. This will see Heathrow’s per passenger airline charges fall in real terms from £20.71 in 2013/14 to £19.10 in 2018/19.
The CAA’s decision in April 2013 of RPI -1.3% was revised up to RPI +0% in October and has now been revised down again to RPI -1.5%. Heathrow had already described the October decision as the toughest price review it had faced.
Heathrow Chief Executive Colin Matthews said:
“We are concerned by the degree of change since the CAA’s final proposals just a short while ago. In October the CAA accepted the need for changes to their April proposals, but has now reverted to a draconian position.”
“We want to continue to improve Heathrow for passengers. We will review our investment plan to see whether it is still financeable in light of the CAA’s settlement.”
Heathrow’s rate of return on capital investment (or WACC), was set by the CAA at 5.35% in its initial proposal, increased to 5.6% in its October final proposal, and has now been reduced again to an unsustainable level of 5.35%.
The CAA’s final decision includes aggressive operational, commercial and passenger forecasts. It requires Heathrow to reduce operational expenditure by more than £600 million, stretches commercial revenue targets by in excess of £100 million, which includes revenues from retail and car park charges, and assumes significant passenger volume growth over Q6. The settlement leaves little spare resource available to manage the consequences of potential disruption at Heathrow.
Heathrow has invested £11 billion in the airport over the last ten years and passengers say they have noticed the difference. In 2013, Heathrow was named the best large airport in Europe and passengers voted Terminal 5 the ‘world’s best terminal’. This year the new £2.5bn Terminal 2 will open, continuing the transformation of Heathrow.
Notes to editors
The CAA’s proposal for RPI -1.5% compares to RPI +4.6% in Heathrow’s Alternative Business Plan and to RPI +0% in the CAA’s final proposals. The annual tariff increase during Q5 was RPI +7.5%.
The CAA’s cost of capital (WACC) of 5.35% compares to 6.7% in Heathrow’s Alternative Business Plan and 5.6% in the CAA’s final proposals.
The current price per passenger of Heathrow’s charges is £20.71 (for 2013/14). Heathrow’s Alternative Business Plan would have seen charges rise to £25.72 in 2018/2019.
British Airways planes at Heathrow. The CAA is limiting price rises below inflation for the next five years at Britain’s biggest airport. Photograph: Matt Dunham/AP
Heathrow has said it will review its investment plans after the regulator made a surprise cut to the landing charges proposed at the airport, a move the airport describes as “draconian”.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) decided to limit price rises below inflation for the next five years at Britain’s biggest airport, allowing an annual increase of RPI minus 1.5%, saying passengers should benefit.
The final decision comes three months after the CAA said it intended to raise the cap in line with inflation – a proposal Heathrow then described as the toughest it had faced.
Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said the CAA had taken a “draconian position”. He said: “We are concerned by the degree of change since the CAA’s final proposals just a short while ago.
“We want to continue to improve Heathrow for passengers. We will review our investment plan to see whether it is still financeable in light of the CAA’s settlement.”
Heathrow said the decision greatly stretched targets and left few resources spare to manage the consequences of potential disruption.
But Iain Osborne, director of regulatory policy at the CAA, said the settlement allowed for nearly £3bn of expenditure to increase resilience and improve facilities and the passenger experience. “We don’t accept that they can’t carry out their investments and make money. If they don’t build things passengers need, then we will put obligations in their licence we can enforce.”
Proposed charges were curbed due to lower borrowing costs and higher passenger forecasts, calculated through actual baseline figures for 2012-13 that outstripped predictions, as well as improved Treasury GDP forecasts. Current landing charges stand at £20.71 per passenger at Heathrow.
Airlines, which had sought deep cuts to charges, claimed to be disappointed by the ruling. A British Airways spokesman said it was “a step in the right direction” but added: “The fact remains that our customers will still be paying more than is warranted and there is plenty of scope for further efficiencies to be made.”
Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive, Craig Kreeger, said: “Today’s decision is a far cry from the reduction needed to mitigate the incredibly steep price rises customers have seen in Heathrow airport charges in the last few years.” He said the airline would be considering its right to appeal.
The CAA infuriated Ryanair by deciding that price regulation will no longer be required from April at Stansted airport, where the low-cost airline is by far the biggest customer. Ryanair said the regulator had “put the fox in charge of the chicken coop”. The airline’s director of regulatory affairs, Juliusz Komorek, said it regretted the “unsupported claim by the CAA that Stansted does not have substantial market power”.
But Osborne of the CAA said the recent deals struck with its major airline customers showed the weakness of the airport’s position. “The fact is that Ryanair and EasyJet together have over 90% of the traffic at the airport and have both signed 10-year deals. Price and volumes are locked in there for the next decade. We’ve concluded that Stansted doesn’t have market power.” Luton and Southend airport both provided alternative bases for low-cost carriers, he said.
Stansted’s owner, MAG, which bought the airport from Heathrow last February, welcomed the move. Chief executive Charlie Cornish said: “The CAA’s decision today to step back from regulating Stansted is a welcome endorsement of the changes we’ve made, and a positive recognition that in Stansted’s case competition rather than regulation will deliver the best outcomes for passengers and airlines.”
Meanwhile, Gatwick will continue to be regulated but without price caps , as the CAA accepted the airport’s commitment to reach individual agreements with airlines while restraining overall average charges. But Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said he was disappointed that the airport was still to be regulated, and he hit out at the CAA for having lowered its benchmark for average charges, which it judged as a cut in real terms by 1.6% annually until 2019. Wingate said: “We are also disappointed at the CAA’s view of a fair price, as well as the intrusive nature of their monitoring requirements. The airport will need to review the detail of the CAA final decision and consider its position.”
EasyJet, which has accused Gatwick of lacking sufficient contingency plans, said it welcomed the news that “robust plans to deliver operational resilience in major disruption will also be under CAA regulatory oversight”.
London Gatwick responds to the Civil Aviation Authority’s final decision on economic regulation from April 2014
10 January 2014 (Gatwick airport press release)
London Gatwick acknowledges that the CAA has continued to accept its Contracts and Commitments framework as the best way forward for regulation and we are pleased that the CAA has recognised the significant progress the airport has made under new ownership.
However, Gatwick is very disappointed with key elements of the CAA’s final decision, including the over-optimistic long term passenger forecasts, the reduction in the cost of capital, and the more onerous monitoring regime. We are surprised by these major changes, which have been made since the CAA published its final proposals just three months ago.
With the progress London Gatwick has made in negotiating commercial agreements with our airlines we continue to disagree with the CAA that the airport has Substantial Market Power (SMP), and as a result requires an economic licence. We are also concerned that the CAA has changed, yet again, the definition of the Gatwick airport market.
Stewart Wingate, CEO of London Gatwick, said:
“I am delighted in the progress that the airport is making to bring more competition to the London aviation market through the commercial arrangements currently being negotiated with its airlines. These discussions have only been possible under our Contracts and Commitments framework, which has latterly been supported by the CAA.
“However, I am disappointed that the CAA’s final decision appears not to acknowledge the importance of these ground-breaking commercial negotiations and has concluded, under its new definition, that the airport does have market power and requires an economic licence. We are also disappointed at the CAA’s view of a fair price, as well as the intrusive nature of their monitoring requirements. The airport will need to review the detail of the CAA final decision and consider its position.”
Notes to Editors
Airport charges per passenger at Gatwick are currently £8.80 (2014 prices) and would remain unchanged (2014 prices) for seven years under Gatwick’s Contract and Commitments framework.
The CAA’s price assessment at RPI – 1.6% p.a. would equate to airport charges per passenger in 2018/19 of £8.07 (2014 prices).
M.A.G responds to CAA economic regulation announcement
10 Jan 2014 (Stansted Airport – MAG)
The CAA has today announced its decision to remove Stansted Airport from economic regulation from April 2014 onwards. Following a two-year review, the CAA has concluded that Stansted does not have substantial market power and the airport should be free to compete with other airports without the need for price regulation.
Responding to the CAA’s announcement, M.A.G Chief Executive Charlie Cornish commented:
“Since MAG acquired Stansted in February last year we’ve focused on building strong commercial relationships with airlines and delivering a better experience for passengers.
“After just ten months, our approach to running Stansted is already yielding big benefits for passengers and airlines. The long term growth deals we’ve agreed with airlines – including Ryanair, easyJet and Thomas Cook – will see Stansted continue to grow rapidly over the next decade, offering passengers more choice in terms of destinations and frequencies.
“The CAA’s decision today to step back from regulating Stansted is a welcome endorsement of the changes we’ve made, and a positive recognition by the CAA that in Stansted’s case competition rather than regulation will deliver the best outcomes for passengers and airlines.
“Stansted is flourishing in a competitive environment, as we build long-lasting commercial partnerships with airlines and deliver excellent service to our customers.”
CAA Final Decision on Airport Charges and Regulation – BATA Reaction
Simon Buck, Chief Executive of the British Air Transport Association (BATA), responding to the publication today of the CAA’s final decision on airport charges and regulation for Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, said:
“BATA airlines remain disappointed overall with the final decision on airport charges published by the CAA today.
“BATA supports improving the passenger experience and we believe this can be done without a repeat of the incredibly steep price rises we have seen in airport charges in the last few years. Prices at Heathrow are triple the level they were ten years ago and we believe there should be far deeper cuts in charges applied to each passenger at this airport for the next five year period instead of a further hike as is being permitted.
“At Gatwick, BATA airlines welcome the CAA’s decision that the airport requires continued regulation through an airport licence and that the costs of any second runway would be included in the licence in order to allow for scrutiny by the regulator.
“CAA’s announcement that its regulatory oversight will also now extend to the development of robust plans to deliver operational resilience to major disruption should also be welcomed.”
Shares in Ryanair fell yesterday as the UK’s aviation regulator paved the way for higher charges at Stansted — the airline’s biggest base.
The UK’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is deregulating Stansted effective from April, releasing it from price controls. The watchdog said that Stansted lacks “substantive market power” in light of the long-term contracts it has in place with its airline customers.
Ryanair is Stansted’s biggest customer, accounting for 75pc of its annual 17.5 million passengers. Stansted has been owned since last year by Manchester Airports Group (MAG).
Last year, Ryanair signed a 10-year deal with MAG to increase its passenger traffic at Stansted from 13.2 million passengers a year to over 20 million by 2023, in return for lower costs and more efficient facilities at the airport.
Yesterday, Ryanair lashed out at the CAA’s decision to deregulate Stansted amid a review of three major London airports, also includingHeathrow and Gatwick.
“Today’s deregulation decision by the CAA will allow Stansted to increase charges in future and will result inyet more damage to UK consumers and competition,” it claimed.
Ryanair shares fell 2.3pc.
But MAG said the CAA decision was “positive recognition” that competition rather than regulation will deliver the best outcome in Stansted’s case.
At Heathrow, the CAA has decided to cap fees at 1.5pc below inflation between April this year and 2019.
It said stronger passenger forecasts had informed its decision, and that there would still be a “supportive environment” for capital expenditure atEurope‘s busiest hub.
Shares in Aer Lingus, the third biggest operator at Heathrow, edged slightly higher.
“In October, the CAA accepted the need for changes to their April proposals, but has now reverted to a draconian position,” Heathrow chief executiveColin Matthews said. “We will review our investment plan to see if it is still financeable.”
Gatwick Airport’s chief executive has told MPs that he will spend millions to protect any future 2nd runway and the airport’s north terminal from flooding after severe weather forced its partial closure on Christmas Eve. Stewart Wingate told the parliamentary transport select committee that he was willing to make “whatever investment is necessary” on flood defences after the flooding meant some flights were moved to the south terminal or cancelled. He said Gatwick had spent £20m on flood alleviation work at the south terminal, which he said had been deemed to be at far greater risk of flooding than the north terminal. He said: “Any plans for a second runway would absolutely assume that the buildings [and the runway] were protected to a similar degree from flooding.” A review of the incident will be published in February. Stewart Wingate admitted a lot more “could and should” have been done for customers after a power cut, caused by flooding of the electricity sub-station, threw the airport into chaos. Passengers said they had not been given information. EasyJet, said only 4 buses had been available to ferry passengers between the north and south terminals.
Gatwick to spend millions to prevent flood fiasco repeat
8 January, 2014
By Chloe Stothart (Construction News)
Gatwick Airport’s chief executive has told MPs that he will spend millions to protect any future second runway and the airport’s north terminal from flooding after severe weather forced its partial closure on Christmas Eve.
Stewart Wingate told the transport select committee that he was willing to make “whatever investment is necessary” on flood defences for the north terminal after floods on Christmas Eve meant some flights were moved to the south terminal or cancelled.
He said the airport had spent £20m on flood alleviation work at the south terminal, which he said had been deemed to be at far greater risk of flooding than the north terminal.
He said: “Going forward we will make whatever investment is necessary to protect the north terminal and electrical resilience of the facility.”
He added: “Any plans for a second runway would absolutely assume that the buildings [and the runway] were protected to a similar degree from flooding.”
He said Gatwick had relied on risk assessments of the likelihood of flooding at the airport from the Environment Agency and would work further with them on this.
One of Gatwick’s non-executive directors, David McMillan, is carrying out a review of the incident which will be published in February.
. ….. and it continues (about rail issues elsewhere) ……
Gatwick Airport boss apologises over Christmas Eve chaos
Departures were transferred to the south terminal after a power failure
The chief executive of Gatwick Airport has apologised to passengers after thousands of people had their Christmas travel plans disrupted.
Stewart Wingate admitted a lot more “could and should” have been done for customers after a power cut threw the airport into chaos on Christmas Eve.
He said the actions of bosses “fell short” and would have an impact on the airport’s reputation.
The power cut happened after electricity sub-stations flooded.
The House of Commons Transport Committee heard how the airport had learned at 04:15 GMT on Christmas Eve that the River Mole would flood in half an hour.
It was expecting merely to have to contend with strong winds but the river burst its banks, flooding electricity sub-stations and causing a power cut at the north terminal.
Several thousand passengers were left stranded, with delays and dozens of flights cancelled.
All flights due to depart from the north terminal after 13:00 GMT were moved to the south terminal, apart from those from British Airways – but the moved flights were also delayed and others were cancelled.
‘Step too far’No trains ran to or from the airport for most of the day because of fallen trees on the line and disruption across the network, which caused a “massive queue” of people trying to leave the airport.
Passengers said they had not been given information about their flights or where they should go to.
EasyJet, one of the airlines caught up in the chaos, told the committee that only four buses had been available to ferry passengers between the north and south terminals.
Mr Wingate told the committee that the airport would have cancelled flights earlier had it not been Christmas Eve, with thousands of people anxious to get away for the festive season.
He said the “unprecedented” terminal switch had been a “step too far” and apologised to passengers, particularly those who had waited all day for their flight only to hear that it had been cancelled.
He told MPs the airport had been given a flight assessment in 2008 saying that the threat of a flood was far greater for the south terminal than the north terminal, with the north likely to be affected between once in 100 years and once every 1,000 years.
The assessment said that at the south terminal, a flood was likely to be a one-in-20-year event.
Mr Wingate said the estimates would have to be revised and many millions spent on contingency plans to ensure there was no repeat of the incident.
He said the flooding was the worst at Gatwick since 1967.
He told MPs: “We all decided we wanted to go the extra mile (to get people away for Christmas). It was a step too far.
“We did something with the best of intentions and we were partially successful. Half of the flights that had been due to depart from the north terminal did so and all the south terminal flights got away.
“We are very sorry about what happened to passengers.”
Q78…..All the executive team last winter were working in the terminals. We were meeting passengers who had been moved from the Heathrow flights down to Gatwick. They were asking, “Why couldn’t we have flown here to start with? Why couldn’t we have flown out on the day we wanted to?” That stimulated a lot of our thinking at Gatwick earlier this year about whether it is right that this is the situation for the next decade.
Q83 James Colman: From Gatwick’s perspective, passenger welfare is a key part of our snow plan, which is pre‑agreed with our airlines and airport partners on site. It covers everything from having ready on site 4,000 blankets and 600 mattresses, all the way through to baby food and cots, if the worst happens. Our restaurants stay open longer if there is a situation on site. There is free wifi throughout the period of the crisis so that people can rebook on the British Airways site, if they need to. A key part of this is also about passenger communication. One matter we have learned over the years is that giving passengers accurate and timely information is a key thing for them to make decisions. We have invested heavily, as part of our command and control system, to make sure that passengers get timely and relevant information so that they can make decisions about what happens next in terms of whether they stay, rebook locally or regroup back at home. Similar to Heathrow, in terms of the airlines being ready and waiting in their responsibilities to passengers, we are comfortable with that at the moment. The CAA have been working with us closely over the last few months to ensure that information relevant to them in terms of passenger rights is available.
Q84 James Colman: From Gatwick’s perspective, I can guarantee that our social media and website will be manned 24/7, as it is today. We do not have a part-time Twitter service; it operates 24/7 as it is, including our website. I cannot guarantee that every help desk will be manned, because the majority of the time our volunteer staff are in the terminals walking the floors, talking to passengers and engaging them face to face. It is a balance between having particular sites where people might be located and going out to talk to them, but I can guarantee our commitment to making sure that our passengers get timely and relevant information.
6.3 We are also aware of the vital role of communication in any response. The volunteers are provided with task cards and clear communication links so that they are capable of providing relevant and timely information. Gatwick has also fully embraced the social media networks and use these to communicate and provide updated information. Gatwick has modified Flight Information and Passenger Information screens to provide a more flexible information platform. We put on additional staff in the terminals to assist passengers with general enquiries. We also ensure our Twitter feed and our website are constantly updated and monitored.
Gatwick boss wants Heathrow to cut number of flights in winter months
Stewart Wingate has written to transport secretary in bid to avoid the chaos at UK’s biggest airport “due to small amounts of snow”
Gwyn Topham, transport correspondent (Guardian)
Monday 21 January 2013
The boss of Gatwick airport has called for a cap on the number of flights at Heathrow to avoid disruption to passengers in what he called “normal winter weather conditions” after hundreds of departures were cancelled at the UK’s major hub over the last four days.
Chief executive Stewart Wingate wrote to the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, asking for a meeting to bring together London’s three main airports to work out how to avoid the chaos at Heathrow “due to small amounts of snow”.
Wingate said: “It just cannot be right that passengers are being asked to accept apologies for pre-emptive flight cancellations. Huge numbers of business meetings and holidays will have been impacted and misery caused to travellers. The over-scheduling of flights at Heathrow during the winter period should stop.
“I am proposing that for the key winter months of December, January and February Heathrow declares a level of capacity that it can cope with in winter conditions. The additional flights then, for those three months, can move to Gatwick and Stansted.”
Thousands of passengers have seen their flights disrupted at Heathrow by the weather and there is some acknowledgment that cancellations came too late. When winter bites at Heathrow it means one thing: a meeting of the damned. “They’re damned if they do, or damned if they don’t cancel hundreds of flights,” as one ex-airport insider put it.
Heathrow’s demand and capacity balancing group, Hadacab, decided last Thursday to press ahead without general cuts to flights. which led to many passengers boarding planes on Friday that never took off, causing many hours of frustration. A meeting on Saturday saw 20% of the following day’s flights cancelled, and about 120 of Monday’s flights were cancelled amid fears for visibility in forecast freezing fog.
At Monday’s midday meeting, with runways and taxiways clear, Hadacab decided against further cancellations for Tuesday.
Gatwick, with 5cm of snow, prides itself on not having cancelled any flights for its own operational reasons, although airline troubles elsewhere in Europe disrupted its schedules. London’s second airport puts this down to better planning and an £8m investment in snow-clearing machines that sweep the runway in 10 minutes. A spokesperson said: “Snow is not an unexpected event. Everyone knows what their actions and responsibilities are and those plans went into place on Friday morning.”
Heathrow’s snow plans have been beefed up under an operations chief, Normand Boivin, headhunted in 2011 from Montreal airport, which sees over 2m of snowfall in an average winter. The airport also boasts £36m of new snow kit and claims to be the only one in the UK with a dedicated Met Office forecaster in residence.
But the chief difference is that 10 minutes to sweep a runway is time Heathrow does not have. Forced runway closures for clearance started the worst of Friday’s backlog: since, though, the runways and approaches have been clear. Visibility instead has been the bigger problem, with air traffic controllers requiring a bigger gap between planes landing or taking off. For an airport that operated last year at 99.2% capacity, a matter of seconds in each flight interval can cascade into long bottlenecks.
“Many airports have plenty of spare runway capacity so aircraft can be spaced out more during low visibility without causing delays and cancellations. Because Heathrow operates at almost full capacity, there is simply no room to reschedule the delayed flights,” a Heathrow spokesman said.
A DfT spokeswoman said: “The UK’s airports sector has learned many lessons from their experience in 2010, and this has allowed them to reduce the level of disruption significantly this year. We will expect them to continue to learn lessons and we will ensure they are as well prepared as possible.
“In the longer term, the Airports Commission will recommend how best to meet the UK’s aviation capacity and connectivity needs and will consider the full range of options, including both short- and long-term measures.”
According to a boss of another UK airport, who once worked at Heathrow: “As soon as they say we’re clearing one runway, there is no resilience. You can close one of five runways at Amsterdam, but here, even for 20 minutes, it means they’ve gone bust. They’re in a very constrained environment, and to get these great big snow-clearing machines around the aircraft without hitting them or other units is a very tricky job. The deicer will only last for half an hour or so and with gridlock on the taxiway, the whole thing becomes more and more complicated.”
Heathrow’s cancellation strategy is strongly dictated by British Airways, the largest carrier, which took much of the weekend flak. Early decisions to cancel have been compared favourably by some to the policy of London City airport, which only announced its decision to close altogether on Saturday in the afternoon.
Yet most observers feel Heathrow has got its act together after December 2010, when hundreds of thousands of passengers’ travel planes were disrupted by just one hour’s snowfall and more than 4,000 flights were cancelled over four days.But the fundamental problem is, as Heathrow admits, the sheer volume of planes. Given that snow is an annual winter event, has the airport bitten off more than it can chew? The other airport boss sympathises: “Is it them being greedy, or airlines wanting every ounce of capacity when they can? Either it turns away business every day, which would be crazy, or waits to deal with the problems that brings. It’s a tough call.”