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Government decision on airport capacity is needed urgently says FTA

A decision on airport capacity needs to be made by Government sooner rather than later – says the Freight Transport Association (FTA).

Responding to the results of an independent poll which showed that more people support airport expansion than oppose it in every region of the UK, FTA has renewed its call on Government to look at increased airport capacity as a matter of urgency.

Chris Welsh, FTA’s Director – Global and European Policy, said:

“An early decision on additional airport capacity is needed once the Airports Commission issues its recommendations. This will be seen as an important test by Britain’s exporters and importers, who depend on air cargo services, of the government’s commitment to boosting the UK’s competitiveness in international markets.”

The poll of UK voters by Populus, for airport expansion campaign group Let Britain Fly, also showed that voters backed calls for the new Government to use its fresh mandate to make an early decision to expand airport capacity once the Airports Commission publishes its final recommendation.

The Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, is scheduled to issue its final recommendation on where expansion should take place later this year. The options include a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow, or a second runway at Gatwick.

Frustration has been voiced by various parties over the length of time it has taken for the Davies Commission, set up in 2012, to reach its conclusion, and calls have been made for the Government to endorse the preferred option immediately following the publication of the report.

Previously FTA has stated that the significance of air freight is overlooked, which was outlined in its ‘Sky-high value – The importance of air freight to the UK economy’ report which was launched in March 2014.

The FTA-commissioned document details the importance of air freight to the UK economy and why continued investment in airport capacity is essential to its growth and success.

Mr Welsh added:

“FTA’s ‘Sky-high’ report showed industry’s preference for investment in additional runway capacity at Heathrow, the UK’s main hub for air freight, was essential for businesses throughout the UK. The report highlighted that Heathrow was a vital national asset, but additional capacity was critical to enable importers and exporters to access new and emerging markets in Asia, South America and the Indian sub-continent.”

95% of air cargo is carried in the belly-hold of passenger aircraft; air freight accounts for nearly 40% of UK imports and exports by value and employs 39,000 people, mostly clustered around Heathrow – the UK’s main airport hub. It is critical for important sectors such as pharmaceuticals, high-end manufacturing and retailers. The case studies in the ‘Sky-high value’ report underline these facts.

Air freight may seem an expensive and environmentally challenging way to ship goods, but for many high-value and high-end goods it is either the best or only way to transport them. The report reflects that air freight is not only the safest and most secure form of freight transport, but for some companies it is also the most cost-effective.

In addition FTA has stated that it has to be recognised 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.

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