Airport commission – Interim Report Summary and Implications

I was fortunate to be able to attend the first public meeting of the Commission to launch the interim report (straight after the commission had dealt with the press and before the official announcement in the House of Commons by the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP, so I managed to get a printed version of the document. The full commission was present although Sir Howard Davies handled the introduction and almost all the questions.

Media headlines were mixed, and in many cases missed the key parts of the document and the commission’s findings.

Key points :

Growth – Commission reported that only one runway required by 2030, and one further runway by 2060.
Location – Suggestion for the first runway was Heathrow (two options) or Gatwick (2nd runway). Options for the second runway were much more open with Stansted adding to the options (and of course what remains from the first runway options).

But this growth is predicated on making better use of what we have : It was clearly recognised that both Gatwick and Heathrow have capacity issues (Gatwick is probably the most used single runway in the world, with Heathrow taking the title for a two runway airport). There is significant spare capacity at Stansted, Luton and other regional airports, with some surface transport (primarily road and rail) improvements to provide alternatives to air and/or better access to improve capacity/usage.

The report dismissed all other suggestions for further airports (supporting the views of this blog previously and many campaigners including RSPB, Friends of North Kent Marshes and local Medway Council (unitary) and Kent County Council(although it must be said that KCC’s suggestions for handling growth were rejected).

So where does an airport on the Isle of Grain (Hoo Peninsula) fit in?

The report indicates that serious consideration was given to all proposals, especially the Norman Foster and Transport for London (TfL/Boris Johnson) options.The commission created their own hybrid version (taking elements from the various submissions) and worked up a scheme that would be located further away from the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) storage facility at Grain. The commission recognised the environmental issues and the lack of any detail of the surface transport needs and implications (road and rail). The other agreement was that Heathrow Airport (and also, probably, London City and London Southend Airports) would have to close.

The commission’s report also highlights the difference between airport developments in the rest of the world. In the UK, all the airports are in public hands and without state control and enforced changes would come at a high price. There was even a suggestion that key airports may have to be nationalised (at considerable cost, with high compensation) to remove the ‘competition element’. This would mean a massive gamble on what income would be generated to pay for it. There are EU rules against public subsidy of airports that would need to be considered.

So why left in?. The commission agreed that an Grain option was a massive undertaking and that perhaps not enough time has been available to make the case. They have agreed to give them a little longer to work up the option, but a decision still needs to be made by summer 2014.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London, not Kent) is continuing to argue for massive development in North and North West Kent. The vacated site at Heathrow would also contribute to a massive redevelopment. opportunity (but ignores the massive infrastructure investments in the Heathrow area (and much more to come) that are driven by the Heathrow affect.

What Next ?
The major factor will be how the Westminster Politicians take this report. History is littered with studies and development decisions that have then been dropped (e.g. Foulness).

There is a general consensus that the Isle of Grain option is still a non-starter (operationally, economically and environmentally) but it will be a case of keeping an eye on proceedings and continuing to remind the decision makers of these issues.

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Airport Commission – Submissions in North Kent

This article summarises the work of Howard Davies’ Airport Commission and the proposals submitted with a direct impact on North Kent.

The commission was setup in September 2012 with a policy of “Making sure UK airports and airlines are safe, secure and competitive while reducing their impacts on the environment and communities”. The remit on the airport consultation given to it by government is “Its overarching objective is to identify and recommend to Government options for maintaining the UK’s status as an international hub for aviation”.

After investigations, receiving evidence and submissions, it will produce an interim report by the end of 2013 and a final report in the summer 2015 (after the General Election). The interim report will document the assessment of evidence on the nature scale and timing of the steps needed to maintain the UK’s global hub status. Including its recommendation(s) for immediate actions to improve the use of existing runway capacity in the next five years – consistent with credible long term options. (Short and medium term actions).

So by the end of this year we will have an assessment of the aviation industry’s growth requirements (if any) and actions to make more efficient use of what we have already. There will also be an assessment of the Long Term options presented recently and a shortlist of “the most credible long term options”. It will not be until after the General Election in 2015 that we will know the decision on large scale development if needed, for additional runways or airports.

There have been a number of submissions in regard to making better use of what we have :

Short Term – those that can be delivered without the provision of additional runways or terminals, with 5 years of the publication of the interim report
Medium Term – options that do not require additional runways or terminals, but may need more than 5 years to deliver (planning approvals or improvement to surface access infrastructure serving an existing airport – road/rail primarily)
(Airport) Submissions from: Aberdeen International, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Farnborough, Gatwick, Heathrow, Biggin Hill, London City, London Stansted, London Luton, Manston, Newcastle, Pembrey, Southampton International, Southend.
Other submissions from regions, county councils, business and industry groups, supporting or opposing, individual or combined airport solutions).

There will be more local interest in what is proposed for the longer term options (if the interim report indicates a significant increase in aviation capacity is required). Consultation on these options will not be until Autumn 2014. Before the consultation, the commission will work with sponsors to draw up the costs and timescales for individual and/or combined schemes to test their viability. In most cases the estimate for airport construction is 2030+.

Summary of Long Term Proposals (existing airports)

Heathrow, Birmingham, Stansted (TfL and others), Gatwick, Manston, Manchester, Gatwick+Lydd, RAF Croughton & Steventon, Cardiff, Luton, Fairoaks combined Hub solutions

Summary Long Term Proposals (new airports)

Goodwin Sands, Foulness, Isle of Grain (Fosters), Isle of Grain (Thames Reach + Metro Tunnel), Cliffe (London Medway), Cliffe (IAAG), Severn Estuary, Oxfordshire, Thurrock (PI) , Twyford (PI), Outer Thames Estuary (TfL – Island + one other), Inner Thames Estuary (TfL- Grain)) , Walland Marsh (PI), Maplin Sands (PI)
PI = Private Individual

As expected at this time there is a wide range of detail with some worked up to include major rail and road infrastructure (in one case a major road/rail bridge/tunnel across the Thames, combined with a tidal barrier, in other options road/rail Thames crossings are required to access the airport). But there are no schemes which have included their full implications – most concentrating on the runways, terminals and direct airport facilities (freight etc.) with some indicating surface connections (road and rail) but not fully worked up (and all estimated much lower than current rail schemes would indicate). There are some interesting rail networks suggested by Fosters (Grain) HS1/HS2/Crossrail and connection to Waterloo from the existing Swanley/Bromley South Line (previously part of Eurostar) and Metro Tidal with connections to Essex (including Stansted).
Implications for North Kent, Thames Estuary and South Essex

A number of schemes have been proposed for the Kent and Thames Estuary area, on land, on land/Thames and in the Thames Estuary itself.

Estuary Airports (Thames Estuary Research & Development + TfL)

http://testrad.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/TESTRAD-Outline-Proposal-19-July-2013.pdf

London Britannia Airport with up to 6 runways would be located on a man-made island in the Thames Estuary between Sheerness/Leysdown/Sheppey and Whitstable/Herne Bay. The terminal/check-in would be at Ebbsfleet!
Rail connection via HS1 to St Pancras and/or Waterloo, Crossrail and onward connections to HS2. Direct highspeed links would connect Ebbsfleet to the airport.

Road connections to Ebbsfleet are “good” according to the submission, although yet another lane will be required on the M25 between the A13 and M11!

Cost £47.3bn

Isle of Grain (Fosters + TfL)
http://www.fosterandpartners.com/ThamesHub/Foster-Partners_Thames_Hub_Report_July_2013.pdf

This is probably the most worked up example and has had the most publicity, in principle it is supported by the Mayor of London. The site part on land and in the Thames on the north side of the peninsula. The LNG storage at Grain and SS Richard Montgomery are indicated as local issues but relatively easily overcome!.

Road connections are to A2/M2 and Lower Thames Crossing with local road improvements. Parkway stations (Car Parking) at Iver, Rainham(Essex) and Swanley.

High Speed Rail connections to St Pancras (and HS1 connections for West Coast Mainline (Milton Keynes) and the Western Mainline (to Slough/Reading) and HS2. Regional connections to Waterloo via current Victoria Line. Connections to an extended Crossrail (current Crossrail terminates at Abbey Wood, but route safeguarded to Gravesend). The idea of a London Orbital Network seems to be missing after inclusion in earlier leaflets.

Claims environmental impacts can be overcome.

Cost now down to £20bn (removal of some significant external surface infrastructure – road and rail) still seems far to low.
This is by far the most comprehensive submission although many of its claims regarding the local environment and issues may not hold up to detailed investigation and the assumption that these are easily overcome may not be true.

Grain/Allhallows (Metro Tidal/Thames Reach Airport) 

http://www.thamesreachairport.com/2013/07/metrotidal-integration-july-2013/

Combines the Thames Reach Airport on the Thames Coast (with hydro-electric power generation) and a road/rail crossing to Essex. Sheppey Tunnel follows in Phase 2.

Claims of minimum impact on environment and heritage with employment opportunities in areas of chronic high unemployment.

As with all submissions, no recognition of housing and community facilities that would need to be provided to support a major airport in this location. Grain LNG 20%+ of nations liquid natural gas storage not seen to be a problem and not even assessed.

Cost £28bn – totally unrealistic.

Cliffe (IAAG) (no separate WEB site, details included in 181mb ZIP file

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/237042/Long_Term_Options_published.zip

London Gateway Airport – relies on support from the SERAS 2002 document 10 years ago (which was soundly rejected, but claims in this submission that it was the best option for the South East!). This is a text only submission which suggests significant planting of trees on the Hoo peninsula (soth and West) to provide a national park. Museums and leisure facilities (Sea-quarium, East of Eden, Fisheries research, aviation history. As with other submissions it also relies on employment creation.

Terminals west of Cliffe/east of Gravesend and/or Essex

Rail connections to St Pancras (High Speed), Southeastern London termini + Waterloo (via Fawkham Junction to dedicated platforms), also Liverpool Street via Tilbury.

Road – assumes Lower Thames Crossing to M25/A13 (between Cliffe and East Tilbury forts). Land tunnel under Cliffe to M2/M20

River traffic from London/Canary Wharf.

Cost – £12-£13bn – Unrealistic, does not consider existing environment and planning context. Lots of glossy extras but not likely to be provided. As with all submissions, no recognition of housing and community facilities that would need to be provided to support a major airport in this location.

Cliffe (London Medway Airport)

http://www.londonmedwayairport.com/Press/LMACommissionEvidence.pdf

The submission claims minimal impact on the area. The airport would cover the Cliffe Pools and stretch south to the village of Cliffe –“ which would be the only area affected” and could be compensated to overcome problems. Road and Rail links to London are indicated. Nice layout for terminals and freight handling but total lack of understanding of the environment in which they are suggesting and no assessment of the impact on the wider area. Rail link to HS1 only. Relies on Lower Thames Crossing, but only additional roads (upgraded!) is to the A2/M2. Assume 60% arrive by public transport – would be nice, but totally unrealistic.
Claims support of local community (DRINK – Demand Regeneration in North Kent) and the only opposition is from the village of Cliffe!

Cost – airport and infrastructure £30bn. Another un-thought out unrealistic scheme.

Thurrock Thames Global Airport and Cruise Liner Terminal (Private Individual) (no separate WEB site, details included in 181mb ZIP file
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/237042/Long_Term_Options_published.zip

The submission indicates :

Redevelop DP World deep water port (opposite Cliffe) to airport and ‘Smartcity’. Capacity in addition to Heathrow, Gatwick & Stansted – does not replace. It is just one runway (which would limit air movements, although London City and Gatwick do show what can be done with just one)

The loss of the deep water DP World London Gateway Port can easily be absorbed locally with investment in infrastructure improvements at the traditional UK container ports of Harwich Port, Essex, Thamesport, Medway, Kent and Sheerness Port, Kent.
LTGlobal Airport and Cruise Liner Terminal, an excellent alternative investment opportunity for DP World.

‘Direct’(limited stop) rail link with Heathrow, rail connections to Stansted and Gatwick via ‘Thurrock Grand Central Railway). Direct dedicated rail from Ebbsfleet to the airport

Very unlikely to proceed – unrealistic. How practical is it to transform a new port location to an airport? The proposal is text only and does not give any detail on how road and rail links would be achieved. The Smartcity proposal could be looked on as a further extension of what is already proposed/indicative expansion alongside the dock already. Could this be successful?

Goodwin Sands, Foulness, Maplin Sands (PI), Manston, East London (PI)
(most have no separate WEB sites, details included in 181mb ZIP file)
https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/237042/Long_Term_Options_published.zip
Manston :
http://www.manstonairport.com/userfiles/files/planning/Airport-Commission/Manston-Airport-Response—Long-Term-Proposals-190713.pdf


Options for these areas have been received but the locations are not suitable for large scale developments, although they might be combined with others to form a much larger solution. These are available on the Airport Commission WEB site, but not expanded on here.

What Next
A further round of consultation on these options is now underway (responses required by 27/9) on the initial views on these options. Then we need to wait for the Interim report (probably December 2013). Councils, business and communities will be eagerly awaiting the result although probably “with concern” might be a better summary. There is still time for the “Aviation Growth Agenda” to be rejected on environmental, economic and operational grounds.

Access the documents, submissions and more details on the Airports Commission on the Government WEB site

www.gov.uk/government/organisations/airports-commission

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Estuary Airport – More than just runways

The most worrying thing about a lot of the pro-airport lobby is the lack of understanding about what an airport involves in physical and other support services. There is a tendency to look at a map and point to the runways. I have tackled just some of the environmental al technical aspects of the runways previously but now turn my attention to the requirements of a modern airport.

The immediate requirements are for passenger and freight terminals and short, medium and long term car parks – very land intensive. Then other support services such as Fire, Ambulance, Police, Border Controls, immigration and other local council operations such as Social Service. Off-site Hospital services also need to cope with individuals and potentially large groups of wounded or sick. The terminals themselves are large retail and service centres and generate their own requirements for staff and goods. Before anybody gets excited about all these jobs, remember that this has to be paid for and a sizeable chunk falls on local and national government (either through increased expenditure, cuts elsewhere or probably a combination of both. The workforce also needs to live within a reasonable distance of the airport as not all the jobs are well paid.

Off-site there are usually a number of hotels (again with large car parks), and need for a local workforce. At Heathrow it is common for large companies to locate regional, national or even international headquarters close to major airports. But this sort of demand for staff is much more that the local economy could provide and would be dominated by jobs nearer minimum wage.

Now the needs for the airport have to be fitted in with the needs of the passengers. The primary infrastructure will be road – motorway standard connections into existing major road network – A2/M2 and A13/M25 – nobody can argue that there is lots of spare capacity on these roads currently to support this extra traffic and there is likely to be major disruption to the existing roads during construction. There would probably need to be a connection Sheerness and probably Essex. The local road infrastructure would also need to be upgraded – the majority of the road system is not much wider than local country lanes.

The secondary transport network (although it should be first in my opinion) would be rail. Highspeed rail connection to London is the primary requirement (although a feed into a national network would also be welcome) but even here there are major capacity issues with lines into London heavily congested in the peak hours. Promoters of estuary airports talk about providing the rail infrastructure as far as another line but not how that line could cope (and how improvements there would be paid for). Local rail services would also be required for Kent people to access the airport by rail, but this would also have to connect into the existing heavily used commuter networks..

Housing – as mentioned there are a lot of jobs required to support the airport and its local economy, But there will be incredible pressure for additional housing near to the airport. It is estmated that there could be 50,000 to over 100,00 workers – this would mean an additional population of 100,000 to 200,000 that might need to be catered for (when additional family members are included) – leading to more demand on our schools and local services. When we consider the impact of the local proposed development at Lodge Hill for up to 5,000 properties – this gives some indication of the potential impact of this level of housing.

The summary is that this level of development cannot be sustainable in North Kent – even if it was not all located on the Hoo peninsula and spread to the Isle of Sheppey and possibly Essex. The impact on the environment would be one (if not THE) biggest impact on an area in the developed world. But of course airport developers could scale down their proposals, but that would have a major impact on their claimed economic development and how it would be paid for.

My conclusion therefore is NOESTUARYAIRPORT and the quicker it is dismissed we can focus our attention on real local needs and focus our resources on making that happen.

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Estuary Airport – Why the Hoo Peninsula?

There have been suggestions that the Hoo peninsula would be a suitable site for a new airport since the 1960s and possibly even earlier. On a map the residential areas are spread through a number of villages with other housing based generally around larger farming areas. The Hoo Peninsula and Isle of Sheppey stand out in the Thames Estuary with sea to the east. However in all previous studies the sites have been dismissed.

The last major study during the government’s previous consultation identified the environmental issues as the key barrier. Local, regional, national european and worldwide commitments have been made to protect various large sites on the peninsula and the wider Thames estuary from direct and indirect impacts (e.g. RAMSAR, Special Protection Areas and many more).

Although these commitments do not prevent development ‘in the national interest’ it has to be demonstrated that there are no other options. If it gets the go-ahead then in mitigation an environment of greater that that lost must be provided.

Establishment of an alternative environment is not simple. The North Kent Marshes are a combination of a rich mudflat in river and an alternative on-shore when the tide comes in. This has taken centuries to be formed and is not possible to create a complete eco system if at all. It has never been done on this scale in the world before!

The Hoo peninsula also has no significant connectivity to either the A2/M2 southbound or Essex and expensive infrastructure would need to be provided.

Despite how it may look on a map, the villages and landscape have a rich history with castles, churches, forts and other significant listed buildings and landscapes.
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Estuary Airport – Paying For It

Foster and Partners put the cost of building the airport, a London Circular Railway and a Road & Rail Lower Thames Crossing (including new Thames Barrier) at £50bn. Although I feel this cost is grossly understated and does not appear to include much of the infrastructure required to support an airport of the size proposed, where would the money come from?

Foster and Boris Johnson claim that there are foreign investment funds just itching to get involved. So is there a problem with funding?

Firstly the world economic downturn does not show any sign of turning around yet. The slowdown in Europe and America means that there is less demand for goods form the emerging economies (especially China) and their growth s slowing as well.

Secondly the key word is INVEST. They would require a return on that money, with interest. The airport will need to pay off those loans and interest through landing fees, and other facilities charges. These would be passed onto passengers through flight tickets, car park charges and general retail. Even money supplied through public funds would have to be borrowed and repaid with interest – but there a tight limits on what can be borrowed by government sources in any case and there will need to be significant infrastructure and services supplied by government sourecs to support it .

Finally Risk – The success of an airport is not guaranteed. In Canada a new hub airport was constructed and proved to be a white elephant. If further problems are identified during construction and there is a risk to the development and there are risks to repayment, this financial risk is reflected in the cost of the ‘investment’. The current Euro crisis demonstrates how the market works with borrowing costs rising for those countries most at risk of default.

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Estuary Airport – Why Growth?

In three previous Blogs I have covered most of the headline issues that support the pro campaign. In a series of ‘The Problems’ I look at the arguements against an Airport.

Why do we need another airport?

  1. Playing Catch-up
  2. Since major airports were developed Heathrow Airport was one of the largest in the world in terms of runway and terminal capacity. But like many other transport innovations (e.g. Rail) the penalty for being the leader is that other countries learnt from the mistakes and built more efficient capacity. Now other airports in Europe are labelled as ‘competition’ and there is an implied need try and leap-frog them and build an even larger airport in the south-east of England near to London. Is the cost (capital and environmental) worth it for what may be a status/vanity project?

  3. The UK needs more hub capacity to be competitive
  4. There is often an arguement that that the UK is losing out by not having sufficient capacity at its airports and especially HUB capacity where passengers interchange between flights to many destinations. In the case of hubs these passengers may not even leave the airport and arrive from other airports and fly onto other destinations – with an opportunity for retail during their stopover.
    However is the environmental impact (especially noise and air pollution) of flights arriving and leaving worth the cost of these retail opportunities? What is the problem with hub capacity being shared between european countries. Often the passenger has benefitted on both cost and time by travelling via Schipol, Frankfurt or Paris airports. Why not use (at least the european) capacity that is already there rather that build massive new airports at massive additional cost?

  5. Need for more journey destinations
  6. In the previous consultation a series of documents looked at the future strategic strategy for aviation across the UK. There was an assumption that growth in air traffic would continue to grow at the same level as before, but even with a reduced rate of growth additional capacity would be needed. However since that review there has been a world-wide economic collapse with knock-on affects starting to be felt in China, Brazil and the emerging economies that are argued to be the drivers of more global travel. Much of the growth in recent years at Hub airports in Europe (and especially France) has been to countries in Africa that were former french colonies and there is no identified need for additional services from the UK. There is also the opportunity to make better use of what we have both in the UK and Europe. There is capacity available at Birmingham (to be linked with London via HS2 High Speed Rail) and other airports (branded London) such as Stansted, (post-2019) Gatwick and Luton. These are least cost options, and could easily be cutback if the projected rise in passenger numbers does not happen. What will be the long term affect of increased fuel prices and the downturn in the economy?

Next I will start to look at the specific issues affecting both a land based or island option in the Thames Estuary

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Diamond Jubilee Success in Cliffe and Cliffe Woods

Despite the mixed weather, both communities of Cliffe and Cliffe Woods celebrated the jubilee in style on Sunday 3rd (Cliffe) and Monday 4th Cliffe Woods. A fantastic effort by volunteers to put on events for their local communities.

Cliffe has a long tradition of fairs and carnivals and has more of a village feel than Cliffe Woods, but events like Sunday don’t just happen by magic. With key groups from St Helens Church, Friends of North Kent Marshes and Cliffe, Cliffe Woods Parish Council and many more. There were plans for a Big Lunch event, but the weather put paid to that (difficult to think that just one week ago it was so sunny and hot). Both on the Buttway and in the church, volunteers put on a series of events. Villagers were also able to watch the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant on the big screen in the church. Despite the chilly and damp conditions it was estimated that about 1,000 people attended.

In Cliffe Woods there have not been any community events for many years and it is hoped this event will be the start of an annual event. Organisation and planning went well, but there was a risk and concern that the community would not support it. Overnight there was major rainfall and at the start of the day it looked like the event could have been a wash-out. But with a little re-organisation the event opened on schedule. The weather did improve and it was warmer than Sunday with actual sunny spells. The community turned out en-mass to support the day with, especially, children enjoying the Bouncy Castle and Coconut Shy. Numbers exceeded expectations and the barbeque ran out of burgers and hot dogs (even emergency supplies from the village supermarket were soon used up). The event certainly achieved, and exceeded, the aim of getting villagers of Cliffe Woods to the Community Centre and Social Club in numbers. With the encouragement of the villagers and the efforts of the event team of the Cliffe Woods Community Association, Social Club, Cliffeara, and Emmanuel Church, another, even bigger, event next year looks promising.

Thank You to all those people who have been planning these events for months and gave their time on the day. My faith in the local communities has been refreshed.

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