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.
1 May 2013 (London Assembly) www.london.gov.uk
Airport capacity in London is currently underused with some London airports having more than half of their runway slots free, says a London Assembly report published today. Even Heathrow – at 99% runway capacity – might potentially fly an additional 20 million passengers every year if larger aircraft were used.
The Transport Committee’s report – “Airport Capacity in London” – suggests existing airport capacity in London, including at busier Heathrow and Gatwick airports, could be used more effectively.
New research commissioned by the Assembly on the usage of London’s airports shows:
- Stansted Airport: 47 per cent of runway slots are available
- Luton Airport: 51 per cent of runway slots are available
- Gatwick Airport: 12 per cent of runway slots are currently available
- Heathrow Airport: at 99 per cent capacity, Heathrow’s runway capacity is nearly full, but some evidence submitted suggests increasing aircraft size would allow it to increase capacity
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. Stansted Airport Ltd suggested that it could attract 1.5 million more passengers per year if the rail journey time from London was reduced from 45 to 30 minutes.
The report also reveals that in 2010, 127 million people used London’s airports and most, including those using Heathrow, flew direct –point to point – to their destinations (78 per cent) rather than use the airports to transfer, which may question arguments for the need for an additional hub airport to boost London’s economy. Seventy-five per cent of flights from Heathrow, the UK’s only major international hub airport, are short haul and London remains the best connected European city across the 23 fastest growing economies.
In addition, runway constraints at Heathrow and other airports might not be the reason for fewer flights to emerging economies, but – as new evidence commissioned for the report shows – postcode preferences by local passengers. Data published by the Committee shows that London’s airports predominantly serve local geographic areas and therefore local demand may be a major influence in determiningwhere airlines chose to fly. In 2010 London airports served 127 million passengers of which approximately two thirds (85 million) were from the East or South East England and 47 million passengers were travelling to or from a London borough.
Local demand for airports must be considered by the Airport Commission in its assessment of the different options for addressing airport capacity including the Mayor’s proposal for a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary. Evidence submitted from National Air Traffic Services (NATS) shows other issues would also need to be considered if a site to the east of London is chosen, including airspace implications with the potential for additional flights and lower flight paths over central London.
Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee, said:
“Evidence we received shows that the Airport Commission must examine whether better use of existing airport capacity could be an intelligent cost-effective alternative to building new airports or runways.
“The need for additional hub capacity is also under debate, with strong data showing rather than runway capacity limiting airlines ability to fly to emerging markets, it could be low passenger demand from each airport’s geographical area. As 700,000 residents already suffer from noise pollution as a result of Heathrow flights, we also hope that any plans to expand Heathrow can soon be laid to rest.
“Currently London sees 130 million passengers traveling through our airports each year. The challenge for the government and decision-makers is to find the best way to support the UK’s economy globally while ensuring Londoners are not adversely affected by worsening noise and air pollution from planes flying over the capital. In the short term using existing capacity in a smarter way may be the most cost-effective solution.”
Later this year the Airports Commission will produce its interim report on the UK’s future aviation requirements. The Transport Committee’s report seeks to inform its findings.
The report is at “Airport Capacity in London” (39 pages)
Notes to Editors:
- The Transport Committee’s report, Airport Capacity in London, sets out findings to inform the independent Airports Commission’s interim report due by December 2013. The Committee identifies the following specific issues for the Commission to address:
– In its interim report on future aviation needs, the Airports Commission should set out how it has taken into account the importance of local demand in determining how airlines use airport capacity.
– In its interim report, the Airports Commission should show how existing airport capacity in London should be used more effectively including at Heathrow.
– If the Airports Commission finds that there is a need to increase airport capacity, it should rule out the expansion of Heathrow airport as an option.
- Most people use Heathrow for short-haul not long-haul flights e.g. in July 2012, 75% of flights at Heathrow were short-haul to Western Europe and UK destinations.Some evidence submitted to the investigation indicated that Heathrow could add a further 20 million passengers per year (mppa) by increasing the numbers of passengers per plane using bigger aircraft such as A380s. London Councils written submission (p3)
- In addition to evidence from analysis of Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and Stansted (see footnotes 4-7), which was externally commissioned research by York Aviation, London City airport has some spare capacity during the middle of the day, but the strong business profile of the traffic at this airport may limit the potential to develop substantial off-peak operations. In 2011, Farnborough and Biggin Hill airports were major operators in business aviation handling 25,000 and 11,300 air traffic movements respectively. Biggin Hill has stressed to us the role it can play in future in providing private air travel. Regional airports, including Birmingham Airport Ltd, have spare capacity and could help take the pressure off London’s airports.
- In summer 2012, around 47 per cent of Stansted Airport’s available runway slots were not used. Figures used in this report are a snapshot of runway availability from summer 2012. Runway availability varies on an hourly basis by season, but this time was selected as critical time for capacity at airports therefore a fairer comparison.
- In summer 2012, around 51 per cent of Luton Airport’s available runway slots were not used.
- In summer 2012 Gatwick Airport had 717 spare runway slots each week (12 per cent of the total) concentrated in the evening period.
- In summer 2012, our analysis showed there were no regular spare slots which would allow an airline to operate a new regular daily scheduled service from Heathrow, running at 99 per cent of its capacity. Heathrow has spare terminal capacity so could accommodate more passengers even though its runways are full.
- London Councils’ written submission to investigation
- High proportions of passengers use private cars to travel to London airports: Heathrow (38 per cent); Gatwick (42 per cent); Luton (48 per cent); and Stansted (40 per cent). Source: CAA Survey Data 2010
- London remains the best connected European city across the 23 fastest growing economies. In 2011, Heathrow had more weekly frequencies (4,641) with two runways than other European hub airports such as Frankfurt (4,570) with four runways, Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris (4,508) with four runways and Amsterdam Schiphol (3,983) with five runways.
- In 2010, 85 million passengers (65 per cent of passengers flying from London airports) were from the East or South East England; 47 million passengers had origins or destinations in London boroughs.
- NATS said as aircraft take off into the wind and this usually blows in a westerly direction any new airport in east London with four runways in an east to west direction would result in more aeroplanes flying over central London. Moreover, to accommodate this extra traffic with the existing air traffic from other London airports, these aircraft would need to fly at a low level over central London.
- Environment Committee’s Plane Speaking report, March 2012
- The Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, will produce an interim report by December 2013 with recommendations for immediate actions to improve the use of existing runway capacity in the next five years.
- More details about the Committee’s investigation into airport capacity in London.
As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.
Transport Committee http://www.london.gov.uk/priorities/transport
The Kent media speculates on the implications for an Estuary Airport: –
Multi-billion pounds estuary hub airport ‘not needed’ according to London Assembly experts
by political editor Paul Francis
Tuesday, April 30 2013 (Kent Online)
The need for an £80bn hub airport in the Thames Estuary has been challenged in a report claiming existing London airports are not being used as effectively as they could.
The report has been prepared by an influential cross-party transport committee of members of the London Assembly – the body which holds the London mayor Boris Johnson to account.
It says millions more passengers could use Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted if larger aircraft were used and empty runway slots were taken up.
It questions the case for a new hub airport, saying it is not viable on grounds of cost, damage to the environment and disruption.
The conclusions represent a major challenge to London Mayor Boris Johnson, who has argued the UK is falling behind emerging economies because of a lack of aviation capacity.
The committee says it is not convinced by that argument and suggests growing demand could be met if better use was made of existing airports and passengers were able to fly in larger “hub buster” planes such as the new Airbus 380.
It also calls for improved road and rail transport links between airports but rules out any further expansion of Heathrow.
The committee says research it commissioned showed that while Heathrow was operating close to capacity, 20 million more passengers could use it if larger aircraft were routinely used.
In addition, it found that at Stansted Airport, nearly half of all runway slots are available while at Gatwick, 12 per cent are unused. At Luton Airport, more than half of runway slots are not being used.
In a key conclusion, the report says: “The case for increasing airport capacity is not clear cut. The economic importance of providing more airport capacity is disputed and a key economic consideration is local demand for air travel.”
It says it is not obvious passengers would automatically use a new Thames Estuary airport if services were still being run from others, including Heathrow.
“It would appear some options such as building a new runway at Gatwick and/or Stansted are more viable than building a new airport in the Thames Estuary.”
“If the importance of a competitive hub is overstated, then an approach of using existing airports more smartly could be more cost effective than building new runways or airports.”
“It would appear some options such as building a new runway at Gatwick and/or Stansted are more viable than building a new airport in the Thames Estuary” – The London Assembly report
Caroline Pidgeon, chairman of the London Assembly transport committee, said: “Evidence we received shows the Airport Commission [set up by the government] must examine whether better use of existing airport capacity could be an intelligent cost-effective alternative to building new airports or runways.”
She added: “The need for additional hub capacity is also under debate, with strong data showing rather than runway capacity limiting airlines ability to fly to emerging markets, it could be low passenger demand from each airport’s geographical area.
“As 700,000 residents already suffer from noise pollution as a result of Heathrow flights, we also hope any plans to expand Heathrow can soon be laid to rest.
“In the short term using existing capacity in a smarter way may be the most cost-effective solution.”
The committee’s report is the London Assembly’s response to a consultation on aviation capacity which was set up by the government last year and is being headed by Sir Howard Davies.
It is expected to report with interim findings at the end of this year.
Major new report questions need for new airport capacity, even at Heathrow
A major report released today by the London Assembly questions the need for new airport capacity, even at Heathrow.
The in-depth study by the Assembly Transport Committee, Airport Capacity in London, has found that airport capacity in London is currently underused with some London airports having more than half of their runway slots free. Even Heathrow – at 99 per cent runway capacity – might potentially fly an additional 20 million passengers every year if larger aircraft were used. Research commissioned by the Assembly found that at Stansted Airport 47 per cent of runway slots are available; at Luton Airport 51 per are available; with12 per cent currently available at Gatwick.
The report also questions the need for more hub capacity in London, whether it is new runways at Heathrow or a brand new airport in the Estuary. Its research shows that seventy-five per cent of flights from Heathrow, the UK’s only major international hub airport, are short haul and London remains the best-connected city in Europe to the world’s 23 fastest-growing economies.
Caroline Pidgeon, Chair of the Transport Committee, said: “Evidence we received shows that the Airport Commission must examine whether better use of existing airport capacity could be an intelligent cost-effective alternative to building new airports or runways”.
John Stewart, the chair of HACAN, representing residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said, “The findings of this report are hugely significant. They put a gigantic question mark against the need for any more runways in London and the South East.
…. and a bit of history ….
London Assembly against Heathrow plans
19.2.2008 (London Assembly press release)
The London Assembly today stressed its opposition to the expansion of Heathrow
airport following an investigation1 into the environmental impact of the proposals.
The Assembly Environment Committee’s submission to the Government consultation
argues that the economic benefits of Heathrow expansion are exaggerated, expansion
plans would breach EU air quality standards, and projections for noise impact
levels are false.
Darren Johnson AM, Chair of the Environment Committee said:
“The Committee has carefully considered evidence from interest groups and individuals
both in favour of and against expansion at Heathrow.
“It is our view that the noise and air quality conditions placed on a third runway
and sixth terminal are inadequate and do not take into account the full impact
the proposed expansion will have on Londoners.
“Expansion at Heathrow should not be considered while various local and international
conditions continue to be overlooked or completely underestimated.”
The Committee found that expansion at Heathrow should not proceed until certain
criteria is met, including:
- a full and independent health impact assessment is carried out on local residents;
- Crossrail (due to open in 2017) significantly increases the proportion of passengers
accessing Heathrow using public transport;
- the Kyoto agreement includes aviation emissions as part of its binding criteria;
- the EU’s carbon emissions trading scheme demonstrates success in reducing the
UK and Europe’s carbon emissions in line with the revised Kyoto agreements.
The Assembly’s draft response to the DfT consultation, will be considered by
the Environment Committee on 26 February 2008.
Notes to Editors
- The Environment Committee investigation examined whether the proposed expansion
of Heathrow Airport is feasible in light of Department for Transport (DfT) findings
into the impact expanding Heathrow would have on air quality, noise levels and
surface access transport.
- The Assembly’s draft response to the DfT consultation is available at: http://www.london.gov.uk/assembly/reports/environment.jsp
- The One London Group, which is represented on the Environment Committee by Peter
Hulme Cross AM, supports the expansion of Heathrow airport.
- As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly
acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.