11:00am. Monday 4 March 2013
Post by: Stewart Wingate, CEO
One day soon we are going to need another runway in the South East of England. Most agree on that. However, what many are not clear on are the facts as they stand today. London’s airports are not full. Only one of them is. We are better connected than our European competitors, and we have more direct links to the ‘BRIC’ economies. Our country’s connectivity is growing, not shrinking. Gatwick alone has created new direct daily links to China, Vietnam and Turkey and this year we will have created daily direct links to Indonesia and Russia.
So let’s not talk our economy down. Today, our focus has to be on how we can make better use of the capacity we already have to deliver the direct connections we need to grow exports and inward investment with key markets. There are a range of steps that could be taken to accelerate the progress already being made. They include de-regulating London’s airports, ensuring better quality rail access to them and encouraging our low cost short haul airlines to connect to long haul carriers. London and the UK are firmly open for business.
But we can’t be complacent about the need to make a decision on new runway capacity. We will need more direct air links to stay in the Prime Minister’s ‘global race’. The Airports Commission will need to make a clear distinction. ‘Hub capacity’ and ‘connectivity’ are not necessarily the same thing. This should not be a debate about the best way to create a ‘mega hub’ - whether that’s at a new airport or an old one. It is about how we create scope for new, direct connections to key markets. As Gatwick’s new direct daily route to Indonesia shows, a ‘hub airport’ is not the only way to make those routes viable.
We already know that today, demand for ‘hub capacity’ is exaggerated. 93% of journeys taken through London’s airports either start or end at them. Only 7% are the ‘transfer’ or ‘hub’ journeys we hear so much about. That has massive implications for how we develop our airport infrastructure in the future. Transfer traffic is important for direct connections to a small number of routes, where demand from within the UK itself is marginal. But the vast majority of demand to use London’s airports is simply to travel to and from London.
With this in mind, Gatwick will be suggesting what we believe is an innovative, affordable, deliverable and more sustainable vision for the Commission to look at. A mega-Heathrow, a Boris Island or a Super-Stansted are none of these things. We will be proposing the incremental development of a competitive and successful network of three major London airports each with, in time, two runways.
Apart from having real scope to produce the direct connections our economy actually demands, we think it will deliver for those that matter most - the passengers. They want lower fares, more choice and a better airport experience. Competition between airports helps to give them that. Concentrating runways in one place will mean a new monopoly. As the Competition Commission proved, monopolies don’t deliver for passengers and haven’t historically provided for the runway capacity we need. Let’s look at what passengers want without forgetting, of course, that they also vote.
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