The new aviation minister has pushed the case for expanding London’s biggest airports, telling the industry that the country needs to grow its hub capacity.
Speaking at the Airport Operators Association conference on Monday, Robert Goodwill said it was “vital that we support growth in this sector”.
Listing the recent investment in airports including Birmingham, Manchester and Stansted, he said: “All these good news stories do not, however, provide the hub capacity we need to grow.”
Hub capacity is generally understood by the industry to refer to airports sufficiently large to provide enough connecting passengers to sustain a wide range of long-haul flights – an argument made by Heathrow and the London mayor Boris Johnson, who favours an alternative airport to the east of the capital.
Goodwill said that the government’s main message was that “aviation needs to grow, to support economic expansion, whilst giving due respect to the wider environment and the quality of life of those on the ground”.
Goodwill later added that the coalition was waiting for the report from the Davies commission, which is investigating how to maintain the UK’s position as a world aviation hub, saying it would be “foolish to pre-empt its conclusions”.
Sir Howard Davies, chair of the Airports Commission, will speak on Tuesday at the conference after recently indicating that he now accepts there is a need to build new runways in the southeast.
A shortlist of possible options for expansion will be published in an interim report in December, but Davies broke his silence earlier this month to say his “emerging thinking” was that Britain would be best served economically, and environmentally, with additional net capacity.
On Monday Ed Anderson, chairman of the AOA, said that the debate had shifted. He said: “There is now a debate about where expansion should take place, not why it should take place at all.”
He added that while the industry was pleased with the positive recognition of its economic benefits from Davies and government, the fear was that politicians would not act on the commission’s recommendations, which will be published after the 2015 general election.
In a Comres survey for the AOA of 500 senior financial decision makers in the UK, just 37% had confidence that the eventual proposals would be delivered.
However, opponents of airport expansion pointed to the findings in the same survey that only 8% of businessmen were dissatisfied with the UK’s international air links to either traditional destinations or emerging markets.
Meanwhile, London First has called on the government to act now to improve rail connections to Stansted airport, which is currently transforming its terminal with an £80m redevelopment.
The business organisation put forward plans for a £620m package of improvements to cut train journey times to under 40 minutes from central London.
It said the plan would bring 2m people within an hour’s journey of the airport by rail and coach, similar to the catchment of Heathrow.
Lady Valentine, chief executive of London First, said: “We are at least a decade away from new runways serving London.
“We have no choice but to make more use of the assets we have to grow Britain’s air links to global markets. Stansted has spare runway capacity. A rail link on a par with those to Heathrow, Gatwick and other airports, would spur competition.”
text of Robert Goodwill’s speech to the AOA conference:
Thank you ladies and gentlemen.
And thank you Ed for letting me come today (21 October 2013).
When I was asked by the Prime Minister to join the Department for Transport ministerial team, I was delighted to accept….
Particularly after spending 18 months on the Transport Select Committee and three years as shadow transport minister in opposition.
It is great to arrive at the Department for Transport.
Although, my arrival was delayed by three years by coalition congestion.
Through the Industry and Parliamentary Trust, I have been fortunate enough to have some first hand experience of the aviation sector through various visits,
With Manchester Airports Group & UPS whose hubs I have visited at East Midlands and Colonge.
As a former MEP, I regularly experienced the delights – and occasionally the frustrations – of air travel.
Even sometimes at Leeds Bradford Airport
So I’m looking forward to putting this knowledge and experience to good use.
Now, public speaking is an important part of any politician’s life.
We can measure our career through a series of speaking firsts:
Your first speech as an MP in the early hours when the result is declared.
Your maiden speech from the green benches.
And then, your first speaking engagement as a minister.
That’s what today (21 October 2013) is for me.
It’s clear from the line-up of distinguished speakers over the next two days that this conference is a highlight of the aviation calendar.
So it’s an honour that I get to deliver my first speech as aviation minister to you today (21 October 2013).
What I want to do today (21 October 2013) is talk about the importance of aviation and creating the right conditions for growth so we can compete on a global level.
It’s important to the UK beacuse:
- air transport contributes an estimated £11.7 billion to the economy
- if you add in the contribution from wider aviation it racks up to £20.2 billion
- it employs 120,000 people directly and many more indirectly
- by turnover the UK has the second biggest aerospace industry and third largest aviation network in the world
- also air freight supports export led growth with the express sector contributing over £2.3 billion to UK GDP
That is why it is vital we support growth in this sector.
But we also need to recognise that a balanced approach is needed as the aviation sector engages with local communities and stakeholders in the decision which may affect them.
I want to talk to you today (21 October 2013) about creating the right conditions for growth so that we can compete on a global level.
Let me begin with our Aviation Policy Framework
In March this year, the government published its Aviation Policy Framework, setting out a high level strategy for the future.
The AOA, and its members, played an important role during the consultation process to help mould its contents.
The Policy Framework recognises the contribution that airports across the country make to regional, national and international economies.
And that connectivity with the rest of the UK is very important to national cohesion.
In recognition of this important issue, we announced in the Spending Review a £20 million fund to protect existing connectivity to London and will publish guidance shortly for potential applicants.
At its heart, the main message of the policy framework is that aviation needs to grow, to support economic expansion, whilst giving due respect to the wider environment and the quality of life of those on the ground.
We must continue to manage the inevitable tension between aviation growth and its impact it has on communities throughout the country.
Not forgetting that many rely on the sector for their work.
I think there has been real progress on the subject of aviation and the environment in recent years.
We’ve been ahead of the curve on issues like tackling carbon, but the good news, is that gradually, we’re making headway internationally.
Recent negotiations through the International Civil Aviation Organisation are evidence of that.
A resolution agreed by the assembly earlier this month commits ICAO to developing global market-based measures to address aviation emissions.
Along with an agreed work programme towards implementation from 2020.
I made clear at the recent European Union Transport Council in Luxembourg that we must work to establish a global agreement and not distort competition by going it alone in Europe.
This is a positive step forward.
And we will work closely with the aviation industry as we move forward.
Turning to access to markets
We live in one of the best connected countries in the world.
In 2012, there were 221 million terminal passengers of which 183 million were international.
To place this figure into context:
In my lifetime, aviation has grown 100 fold from 2 million to 221 million and is the fastest growing mode of transport.
And it continues to grow.
We’re improving links to important trading partners and global financial centres around the world.
And we continue to tackle barriers to markets that stifle supply, competition and innovation.
The liberalisation of market access generates opportunities for industry – creating the space for businesses to respond.
Later this month we will see the removal of constraints on market access between the UK and Malaysia – providing airlines with new commercial opportunities.
We are paving the way for similar agreements with Qatar, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and others.
As you may have seen in the media, the Chancellor was recently in China.
More trade and more investment with China, means more business and more jobs for Britain.
The Secretary of State, Patrick McLoughlin, cannot be with us here today because he’s in China, promoting our interests.
By improving air services to countries such as China,
We create the space within which UK business can compete for work and supply their goods and services,
Opening doors, building relationships, creating jobs and contributing to growth.
As a Northern MP I know there is more to life than London and the south east.
Much of the growth in UK aviation is happening outside this corner of the country.
Regional airports play an increasingly important role in contributing to the UK’s economy.
In fact, describing them as regional rather sells them short – most are thriving local international airports in their own right.
Edinburgh Airport is investing £25 million to boost terminal capacity as part of a wider £150 million private investment programme.
Stansted is investing £80 million to transform its terminal building while securing long term deals with easyJet and RyanAir Manchester Airport’s recent news of £800 million investment to develop its surrounding business area is matched by its ambition for infrastructure developments and government support for surface access improvement.
Birmingham is updating its runway and air traffic control to support long-haul flights and new services to India and Pakistan.
And, as with Manchester, high speed rail promises better connectivity in the future – with stations at the airports.
However, airports right around the country – including Southend, East Midlands and Bristol – are investing for the future.
And we are improving connectivity between airports and the rest of the transport network.
All these good news stories do not, however, provide the hub capacity we need to grow.
This leads me to mention the work of the Airports Commission.
Tomorrow, you will hear from Sir Howard Davies.
You will no doubt have heard or read Sir Howard’s recent speech, in which he set out the commission’s emerging thinking on our need for new airport capacity in the long term.
I am pleased to see that the work of the Airports Commission is progressing and encouraging debate on this important issue.
Many of you will have made, or contributed to, representations to the Commission.
If you have, I want to take this opportunity to thank you.
It is important that the commission has high quality evidence on all possible options, including the most ambitious.
The independent commission will publish its interim report at the end of the year before publishing its final report by August 2015.
The government will wait for the interim report before commenting further.
It’s vital that we find the right long term solution for the UK and I fully support the Airports Commission in its work.
Last week I announced the publication of reports by the Civil Aviation Authority and Heathrow Airport Ltd into the recent trial of Operational Freedoms.
The trial permitted the more flexible use of the airport’s runways and departure routes to improve punctuality reduce delays and enhance resilience.
I would like to thank all those involved in the trial.
The findings will be of interest to the Airports Commission, as it assesses short and medium term options for the UK’s existing airport infrastructure.
I have invited the Commission to review the CAA and Heathrow Airport reports to help inform its work in this area.
And I will continue to share with the Commission any information that can help with its deliberations.
We all recognise that we continue to live through challenging economic conditions which have been difficult for both consumers and the aviation sector – but the signs are encouraging.
We need to ensure that we take the right decisions to ensure that Britain can compete in what is a global race – Creating the right conditions for growth.
We are building confidence, stimulating markets and working in partnership with business.
Our future success will be built on our ability to develop transport links with the rest of the world – keeping ourselves in the global race.
Aviation provides the fast, reliable connections that can help build economies, jobs and growth.
But we must manage the natural tension between aviation growth and the impact it has on communities and the environment – respect to quality of life.
Government and its independent bodies engage the aviation sector on a wide range of issues from policy to regulation, from security to connectivity.
I am confident that the Airport Operators Association, and its members will continue to contribute to the ongoing debate.
l look forward to hearing what you have to say and working with you in the months ahead.