Hammond confirms Government opposed to Heathrow mixed mode

28.07.10   (UK Airport News)

The government has ruled out increasing capacity at Heathrow on existing runways
through mixed-mode operation – allowing aircraft to take off and land on the same
runway. Transport secretary Philip Hammond told MPs on the transport select committee
yesterday: ‘We are not in favour of mixed-mode operation at Heathrow. The disbenefits
to local communities outweigh the benefits.’

The previous government rejected a move to mixed-mode operation at the airport
in early 2009, but approved plans for a third runway, having previously appeared
keen to proceed with both. The new coalition government scrapped runway expansion
plans immediately following its formation in May.

Gatwick and other airports operate mixed mode, but Heathrow’s two runways are
restricted to take-off or landing and switch each afternoon. Aircraft are louder
on taking off and this gives local residents some relief from the noise.

Mr Hammond also rejected the idea that regional airports could expand in place
of Heathrow, rejected London mayor Boris Johnson’s plan for a new airport to replace
Heathrow and restated the government’s commitment to moving domestic traffic from
air to rail.

He said: ‘We recognise regional airports can have a significant effect on a local
area, but the role of regional airports is different. It is not obvious the UK
can support more than one international hub airport. We are not thinking of moving
Heathrow, I can promise.’

‘The challenge is to maintain Heathrow as an international hub. Switching traffic
from air to rail will be important part of ensuring [that]. It’s the government’s
clear objective to secure Heathrow’s future within the constraints of two runways.’
A high-speed rail network would be vital, he added, but warned: ‘It will not be
cheap and will take the best part of three decades.’



see also

the Minister’s oral evidence to the Transport Select Committee on 26th July 2010



Some  of the questions and responses by Philip Hammond are below:

Q74 Angie Bray: Given that we now know there is going to be no third runway at Heathrow, is there
going to be renewed pressure to change the runway arrangements? Any pressure to
introduce mixed-mode in order to utilise what runways we have got to increase
business there? What is your view on that and what stand would you take on that?

Mr Hammond: We have made clear in the announcement of the setting up of the working group
that we would not approve a move to full mixed mode, which is something which
some airlines have suggested as a way of increasing capacity. We think that the
disbenefits to the local community would outweigh the benefits to the aviation

Q75 Julian Sturdy: What is the Government’s position on more regional airports and potential expansion
at those given the impact they could have on the local economy?

Mr Hammond: We recognise that local, regional airports can have a significant impact on regional
economies. Proposals to increase capacity at regional airports will be looked
at literally on their merits, balancing the economic benefits with the local environmental
disbenefits which occur when an airport is expanded or increases its level of
activity. I think it is probably worth mentioning though that the challenge at
Heathrow is a different one. The challenge at Heathrow is maintaining an international
hub airport with the constraints of two runways and very high utilisation of those
runways. The role that regional airports can play is very important but it is
a different one and it is obvious that the UK could support more than one international
hub airport, although that is certainly something that the working group will
want to look at.

Q66 Chair: How can the use of this group [the South East Airport Task Force ] ensure Heathrow remains a hub airport?

Mr Hammond: The clear objective of the Coalition is to secure Heathrow’s future as a hub
airport within the constraint of operating with the two existing runways. The
driver in setting up the working group is that for the last ten years, and I have
always had an interest in what is going on at Heathrow as a local constituency
MP, the main players have been principally focused on arguing the case for a third
runway. It has not suited any of the stakeholders around the aviation industry
to suggest ways in which Heathrow could be improved; the existing capacity could
be better utilised while they work in a debate with Government and other protagonists
arguing for a third runway. Now that argument has been shut down, and we have
made it clear there will be no third runway at Heathrow, I wanted to create an
opportunity for the huge amount of knowledge and experience that there is in BAA,
in the airlines, in the Civil Aviation Authority and other stakeholders such as
NATS, to come together and start to talk pragmatically about how within this constraint
we can make Heathrow work better, we can utilise the capacity at Heathrow more
effectively in order to protect its status as the UK hub airport

Q67 Chair: When do you expect the task force to report?

Mr Hammond: From memory, when we set it up we indicated it would start to produce recommendations
in the spring. If I am wrong about that, I will come back and correct that. We
suggested it would not have a definite finishing time but that we would expect
it to start producing recommendations from the spring.

Q68 Kelvin Hopkins: I declare something of an interest but I think there is a special case for including
Luton with the other three airports in your considerations and that Luton has
the capacity to take at least another 10 million passengers and probably more.
Would you raise Luton up as a more serious player in this consideration, especially
in view of the introduction fairly soon of the Boeing Dreamliner which will mean
that long haul flights will be possible from Luton and it will not just be a medium
and domestic airport?

Mr Hammond: The announcement of the working group made clear it would focus initially on
Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, the three airports where announcements have been
made about future runways so constraints are clear. But it will look at the wider
issue of aviation capacity in the South East, and that is not only Luton; there
are other airports and would-be airports in the South East as well, so absolutely
the Minister of State will be looking at those issues and will be very happy I
am sure to hear representations from Luton Airport in due course.