According to Alex Veitch, the case for enlarging Heathrow Airport is clear

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) is firmly behind plans for a third runway at Heathrow to boost air cargo capacity in the south east. Demand has already been well established and, as confirmed by the Government’s independent Airport Commissions report, Heathrow is by far the better option for air freight than Gatwick.

Air freight is a significant driver for the UK economy. In 2010, Steer Davies Gleave (SDG), as part of its work for Department for Transport (DfT) on air freight in the UK, estimated the total economic footprint of the sector (direct, indirect and induced effects) to be around £7.3 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) and 135,300 jobs. The impact of the sector on the wider economy is difficult to quantify effectively. However, SDG estimated that the total value of air freight services including wider impacts to the UK economy was around £14.3 billion and 282,400 jobs.

A York Aviation Ltd report jointly commissioned by FTA and Transport for London in 2015 made long-term demand forecasts for air freight and assessed the economic impacts of failing to expand capacity to meet this demand. The analysis clearly demonstrates the importance of the provision of additional concentrated airport hub capacity in London by 2050. Without thiscapacity, the air freight industry will suffer as, ultimately, will the end users in the UK economy.

Air freight is carried in both the cargo hold of passenger aircraft and in dedicated freighter aircraft, but most air freight to and from the UK is carried by the former. This helps to explain the dominance of Heathrow in the air freight sector. There is a mutually-beneficial relationship between passenger and cargo connections, as cargo carried in the belly hold often dictates whether a proposed route is commercially viable.

Heathrow has the best connectivity to global markets of any UK airport, currently serving 185 destinations in 84 countries. As a global hub airport, it offers by far the largest range of long haul destinations of the southeast airports and by far the biggest aircraft capacity. Almost all the 1.4 million tonnes of freight handled at Heathrow in 2013 was carried in the belly hold of passenger aircraft. Increasingly, pure freighter operations have moved out of Heathrow as higher yielding passenger services have taken overtheir slots. The same is true of air freight operations at Gatwick. The other airports, without Heathrow’s long haul connections, simply do not provide an alternative.

DfT statistics show that in 2015 Heathrow accounted fully for 67 per cent of total air freight tonnage in the UK, while Gatwick accounted for just three per cent. Heathrow has also nurtured its air freight market; increasing its tonnage by 15 per cent between 2005 and 2015. Over the same period, Gatwick’s air freight tonnage fell by two-thirds

As the Airports Commission’s report clearly demonstrates, Heathrow has become a crucial nerve centre for UK logistics, with forwarders, specialist air cargo handlers and distribution centres clustered around the airport, benefiting from excellent transport links across the country and to the Channel ports. This in turn provides vital global connections for UK businesses trading internationally.

But the failure to expand means Heathrow is falling behind its international competitors…Airports Council International rank Heathrow at number 19 in the list of the world’s busiest cargo airports, behind our European competitors Frankfurt at number ten and Paris Charles de Gaulle at nine and Schiphol at 17. Expansion and growth of both the passenger and freight markets is vital to enable Heathrow to compete on a global level, and to continue to attract international businesses to the UK.

The Airports Commission concluded that Heathrow rather than Gatwick should expand because of the economic benefits for the whole country, which included £147 billion in economic growth over the next 60 years and the creation on 70,000 new jobs by 2050.

And the York Aviation report commissioned by FTA and TfL concluded “of the three options, the Heathrow expansion provides the most significant economic benefits, in terms of cost reduction, job creation and minimisation of extra costs associated with increased freight transit times”.

So, what does FTA want from expansion?
FTA is fully engaged as a key stakeholder in the development of the expansion plan at Heathrow. We recently submitted a formal response to the Government consultation on Heathrow expansion.

The key points are:

  • FTA supports the construction of a third runway at Heathrow, in preference to Gatwick, as this delivers greater economic benefits to the UK and is the key logistics hub for the whole country
  • FTA is keen to support Heathrow as it develop its application for permission to expand. This should include excellent surface access for freight operators
  • Air quality limits for Heathrow should be aligned with London road emissions standards (ULEZ)
  • Early morning arrivals into an expanded Heathrow should be maintained as far as possible due to the economic benefits of these flights. FTA presents clear evidence based on our new economic research on this issue

Following the General Election there will be a Parliamentary vote on the Heathrow proposal and FTA will be fully engaged with MPs.

Alex Veitch is the FTA’s Head of Global Policy. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) is one of Britain’s largest trade associations, and uniquely provides a voice for the entirety of the UK’s logistics sector. Its role, on behalf of over 16,000 members, is to enhance the safety, efficiency and sustainability of freight movement across the supply chain, regardless of transport mode. FTA members consign over 90 per cent of the freight moved by rail and over 70 per cent of sea and air freight. In addition, they operate over 200,000 goods vehicles – over half the UK fleet – and some 700,000 liveried vans.