“Independent Transport Commission” produces yet another report advocating a 3rd Heathrow runway

A small think tank on transport, called the “Independent Transport Commission” (many of whose members are backers are from the aviation industry) has commissioned another report, reiterating their claim that the UK needs a hub and so a 3rd runway at Heathrow is needed. The main reason they give is: “To protect and develop the UK’s global “direct” connectivity and to ensure new routes are launched from the UK before our European competitors.” They produced a similar report in May 2013, calling for a large hub, though at that stage they also backed Stansted or the estuary for their mega airport. This new report does not mention climate or carbon emissions once, and suggests another runway might be added by mid century.  It has looked at the hub-and-spoke model and its associated issues, and the long distance point-to-point model – and they advocate one large hub for most of the long haul traffic, at least “for the foreseeable future.”  The report highlights the role of transfer passengers in making long-haul routes viable and say only a hub with at least 3 runways (ie Heathrow) “would allow airlines to provide an extensive network of long-haul routes”.  The UK aviation lobby is terrified of being out-competed by European rivals, and Heathrow not being “top hub”. 



Heathrow’s case for expansion bolstered by think-tank findings

February 16, 2014
By Jane Wild (FT)  ££

Full FT article at




The February  2014 ITC report  

Aviation: the optimal size of a Hub airport

The optimal size of a UK Hub Airport (February 2014)


Full Text (1.5 MB)



The report’s conclusion says:

In Flying to the Future the ITC argued that the major aviation connectivity challenge
for the UK was not in the short-haul area – which has been very well served by
the growth of low-cost airlines and airports around the country – but in sustaining
and enhancing direct connectivity with global destinations; and that increased
hub capacity was crucial to address this.

We currently host the world’s busiest international airport, yet more traffic from the
UK’s regional airports hubs abroad than via Heathrow. Before adding ‘new’ demand,
recapturing that traffic could increase passenger numbers by 12 per cent,
ATMs by 8 per cent and destinations by 7 per cent.

In this report we conclude that:

a) we cannot forecast significant changes in the structure of aviation. Longhaul
remains likely to rely very heavily (though not exclusively) on the hub
and spoke business model and aircraft entering service now will still feature
strongly in airline fleets in the 2030s;

b) to protect and develop the UK’s global “direct” connectivity and to ensure new
routes are launched from the UK before our European competitors, the prime
need remains to develop our hub capacity;
c) over time, a three runway airport might mean up to 70 more destinations but
paradoxically we believe the first instinct of airlines will be to increase routes to
some of the more mature markets;

d) a three runway hub airport is likely to be sufficient to meet anticipated needs
until at least the middle of the century and these three runways need to be at
the same physical site i.e. the current Heathrow or a new Isle of Grain airport ;

e) but in planning for the longer term, the Airports Commission should address
now what might happen if, in the middle of the century, it becomes clear
further capacity is required;

f) we agree with the earlier views of the ITC that an extra runway at Gatwick
would not offer the same opportunities for developing connectivity.




 Earlier – in May 2013

Think tank, Independent Transport Commission, recommends one hub airport, at Heathrow, Stansted or Thames Estuary

The Independent Transport Commission (ITC), have produced a report – to be submitted to the Airports Commission, on airport capacity. The ITC report says one major hub airport is needed, in order to compete with European rival airports. Heathrow cannot be left as it is.  They say using two London airports to share the load will not do.  They also say that if that hub is not Heathrow, then Heathrow would need to close, in order to give investors confidence that airlines would move their business. Closing Heathrow would have immense implications, with 114,000 people directly and indirectly employed by the airport.  Its closure would have impacts on their families and the communities in which they live  – but release a huge area of land (some 1,200 acres for profitable re-development….. though a town the size of Peterborough would be needed for the new hub airport. Their report follows a call for evidence last summer.  The ITC’s key worry seems to be that “…we are losing that capacity to Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt [and] Schiphol and the airlines will want to use those airports.” 




The ITC May 2013 report 

Flying into the Future: Key issues for assessing Britain’s Aviation infrastructure needs

(May 2013)      title= Full Text (PDF, 2.2 MB)   41 pages







The list of commissioners of the ITC is at http://www.theitc.org.uk/dyn.php?page=3

The list of patrons of the ITC is at http://www.theitc.org.uk/54_Patrons.html

The list of funders (including many airports) of the ITC is at http://www.theitc.org.uk/5_Funding.html