Freight Transport Association (FTA) has urged the government not to delay a decision on airport expansion because of the negative impact it will have on the freight industry.
An announcement on one of three options outlined by the Airports Commission last November was expected this month, but reports claim there will be no response until Christmas while ministers take more time to consider the plans.
FTA has consistently maintained the importance of air cargo to the UK economy and is now urging the government to act as a matter of urgency.
FTA Chief Executive David Wells wrote to David Cameron last week to highlight the essential role of air freight, which represents more than 40% of UK imports and exports by value, and plays a crucial role in the supply chains of many UK businesses.
He told the Prime Minister that the decline of Heathrow as a viable global cargo hub would increase freight and logistics costs across the UK.
“Air cargo is vital to the UK economy and increased transport costs will inevitably be passed on to the consumer.
“It’s disappointing to hear that there will be no announcement until the end of the year. This is further evidence that the importance of air freight is being overlooked and we would urge the government to reconsider.
“Eighty per cent of freight is carried in the holds of scheduled passenger aircraft using Heathrow airport. Gatwick does not possess the infrastructure to handle the volumes of cargo required,” he said.
The government is considering three options outlined by the Airports Commission:
A new 3,500-metre runway at Heathrow Airport in west London
An extension of the existing northern runway at Heathrow in a plan put forward by Heathrow Hub, a consortium that includes former Concorde pilot Jock Lowe
A new runway at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex.
FTA commissioned a report – ‘Sky High Value – The importance of air freight to the UK economy’ – in to reflect its contribution to the Airport Commission’s work and to highlight the importance of air freight in the debate, which had previously focused on passenger and business travel.
The report illustrates that Heathrow is a critical hub for air cargo; it offers 191 destinations, moves 1.5 million tonnes of freight and is vital for UK connectivity to its main overseas markets. Heathrow is currently operating at 98% capacity and needs to be able to expand to meet the needs of industry.