Report calls on the Airports Commission to adequately consider surface access
A report - Surface Connectivity: assessing the merits of the Airports - undertaken by Loughborough University for the Independent Transport Commission (ITC) is released today (Wednesday 29 October).
The report, by Dr Tim Ryley and Dr A M Zanni from the University’s School of Civil and Building Engineering is timely, since the Government’s Airports Commission will shortly publish its latest analysis and will make its final recommendations by next Summer.
The report calls for stronger focus on the surface transport implications of airport expansion, whether at Heathrow or Gatwick. Expanding an airport without a clear plan for surface access will deliver only half the solution. No-one simply flies: all airline journeys start-and-end with surface journeys to their final destination. But this issue has attracted far too little attention.
The report found:
- Travel to and from airports in South-East England will rise due to expansion and underlying population growth. It remains, however, unclear just how much additional rail, road and tube capacity - on top of what is already planned - will be needed once underlying population growth, the additional demand (from passengers, staff and freight), and a significant switch to public transport are all factored in. Robust modelling of these combined effects is urgently needed to test the adequacy and cost of surface transport proposals.
- The targets for modal shift - from private cars to public transport – set by the airports are ambitious, and policies to encourage behavioural change, as well as investment, will be necessary to achieve them.
- The “last mile at the airport” - ensuring easy and seamless transition between the plane and surface transport - is critical for passengers. This raises issues and opportunities for new technology, integrated ticketing, local transport ‘hubs’, and ensuring that airports are well integrated with the national transport network.
- Planning and then operating seamless transport to and within major airports is complex. It involves a host of organisations, including planning authorities, property owners, infrastructure providers and service operators. Effective “governance” will be crucial.
- An opportunity may have been lost to plan the UK’s 2 biggest transport proposals - HS2 and airport expansion - in the joined-up way that other countries have adopted, to maximise the benefits from both. But HS2 could create a new “airport corridor” between the south, midlands and north, creating new commercial and competitive opportunities for airlines.
The report therefore recommends that the Airports Commission should:
- Publish clear and transparent estimates of the cumulative extra demand which would follow from expansion; and whether the currently planned surface transport improvements will be sufficient for the next 30+ years;
- Consider the policies, including possible financial penalties and incentives, to encourage mode switch to public transport and funding streams to support it. This could make a contribution to the investment needed;
- Propose appropriate public-private governance structures to ensure that the full benefits for passengers of seamless transitions between plane and surface transport are realised during the planning and execution stages;
And calls on the Government to:
- Reflect on the integration between airport development and high-speed rail achieved elsewhere (eg Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris) and consider what better mechanisms might be needed to strengthen cross-modal planning for future major transport proposals.
Dr Stephen Hickey, Chairman of the ITC’s Aviation working group, commented:
"Expanding an airport without an adequate surface transport strategy would deliver only half the solution. But the surface connectivity issues have been largely absent from public debate.
The report comes at an important time for the Airports Commission, who will decide on their final recommendations in the next few months. It is essential that, whichever airport they recommend for expansion, they don’t look at aviation in isolation. Passengers start and end every journey on surface transport, so this also needs to be fit for purpose. But the population is rising anyway, and there also needs to be a switch to public transport, so it is vital to ensure the cumulative demands on the surface systems can be met and that passengers can move easily and seamlessly between their surface journeys and their flights. Improving global and domestic connectivity must go hand in hand."
This study builds upon the following previous ITC reports on UK aviation strategy: Flying into the Future (May 2013), and The optimal size of a UK hub airport (February 2014).
Notes for editors
Press release reference number: PR 14/192
 Gatwick estimate their passenger numbers could rise from 34m in 2013 to 60m in 2030 and 87m in 2050. Heathrow expect their passenger numbers to rise from 72m (of whom around 45m use surface transport - others transfer to other flights) to around 100m by 2030. The numbers using surface transport would rise from 45m to around 68m. Both airports also want to increase the proportion using public transport.
- The Independent Transport Commission is Britain's foremost independent land use and transport think tank. We are a research charity committed to providing insight and analysis of the most pressing long-term strategic issues in the fields of transport and land use. The ITC explores the long-term consequences of current policy, considers new approaches and makes recommendations on the way forward. For more information please see our website, www.theitc.org.uk .
- The ITC, was founded in 1999 and comprises a small secretariat, an advisory team of 12 voluntary commissioners, and has a base at Cowcross Street in central London. Simon Linnett, Executive Vice-Chairman of Rothschild, is the current ITC Chairman and Dr Matthew Niblett of the University of Oxford heads the Secretariat. The charity has no endowment and is supported by charitable donations from a wide range of leading organisations (a list of our supporters is on our website www.theitc.org.uk/5_funding.html), but the ITC retains strict editorial independence from all our funding partners.
- This report was authored by Dr Tim Ryley of Loughborough University, and Dr Alberto Zanni. Dr Ryley is a Senior Lecturer in Transport Studies at Loughborough University, with twenty years of transport research experience (including at the Transport Research Laboratory and the Transport Research Institute, Napier University). Since joining Loughborough University in 2004, he has successfully led a series of transport research projects across surface and air transport applications. He is programme director for the BSc in Air Transport management and the BSc in Transport and Business Management.
- The Patrons of the ITC are: Lord Adonis, Lord Freeman, Sir Patrick Brown and Sir Terry Farrell.
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