Restricted Heathrow is failing to serve UK, warns airport tsar

Sir Howard Davies tells Simon Calder that London’s hub needs to think nationally

Solving London’s aviation capacity crisis must make provision for flights to other parts of the UK, Sir Howard Davies has told The Independent. The man tasked with prescribing a solution to the shortage of runways in south-east England said: “It’s been made very clear to us in our regional visits that, unless we think about connectivity to London, we will miss a big part of the picture.”

A discussion document published on Thursday by the Davies Commission reports: “The number of domestic UK destinations served from Heathrow has fallen to seven in 2013, compared with 10 in 2000.” Sir Howard said: “The big fear in places such as Belfast and Edinburgh is that if you only have a constrained airport like Heathrow, it will grow its links to China at the expense of regional flights – and to some extent that’s happened.”

The Airports Commission, as it is officially known, is required to report by the end of this year on interim measures to make best use of scarce runway capacity in south-east England. Sir Howard said: “Bluntly, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to produce a set of short-term options which will massively increase the capacity at Heathrow.”

His main task is to make recommendations on expansion by the summer of 2015. He said: “The optimist in me says, there might be a moment immediately after the next election, when a new government has a willingness to grapple with this and make decisions. Maybe it’ll get lost in the mire again, but I hope not.”

Heathrow, which is at the centre of controversy about expansion, has been operating very close to its stipulated limit for many years. The discussion document says an early-morning slot at the airport can trade between airlines at £15m. It also reveals that foreign governments are refusing to endorse any increase in capacity unless their airlines get access to Heathrow: “The Russian authorities have explicitly stated access to slots at Heathrow as a barrier to further liberalisation,” says the paper.

One effect of the scarcity of slots has been for airlines to increase frequency to the most profitable destinations, at the expense of a diversity of destinations. The number of cities served from Heathrow reached a peak of 175 in 2006, but within five years a dozen destinations had been cut.

Seven weeks ago, British Airways abandoned its links with both Dar es Salaam and Tbilisi, capitals of Tanzania and Georgia respectively. Both Gatwick and Manchester serve dozens more destinations than Heathrow.

One inference that can be drawn from today’s discussion paper is that London is increasingly resembling a city state – closer, in aviation terms, to Dubai and Singapore than to the rest of Britain. The document says: “While on average in the UK, each resident takes just over 1.5 flights abroad per year, a resident of London takes on average 2.5 flights.”

While one in three passengers at Heathrow is connecting between flights, the figure at provincial airports is negligible. At Manchester, the third-busiest airport in Britain, only one in 50 passengers is in transit. Gatwick lost more than half its connecting traffic in the decade from 2000, as a result of British Airways abandoning its dual-hub model, and the shift of transatlantic services to Heathrow.

Airports: The options

Heathrow third runway

One of the world’s busiest airports with over 70 million passengers a year, Heathrow is already close to full capacity. A third runway is seen as the best option to keep Britain competitive but environment campaigners claim it would increase noise pollution to those living underneath the flight path and make Heathrow Britain’s biggest emitter of carbon dioxide.

New ‘Boris Island’ airport in Thames Estuary

Championed by the London Mayor Boris Johnson, the project at Shivering Sands, Kent, would include four floating runways tethered to the sea bed at a cost of up to £60bn. Critics point to the increased risk of birds striking planes, damage to the rare estuary wildlife and the huge cost as reasons for not building the airport.

Another runway at Gatwick

The world’s largest single runway airport with more than 33 million passengers a year could add a second landing strip. The proposal would see fewer people affected by noise pollution at Heathrow and capitalise on the airport’s good transport links to London. But with existing agreements meaning no second runway can be built before 2019 it is an unlikely solution.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Suited and booted in the Lanvin show at the Paris menswear collections
fashionParis Fashion Week
Arts and Entertainment
Kara Tointon and Jeremy Piven star in Mr Selfridge
tvActress Kara Tointon on what to expect from Series 3
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
An asteroid is set to pass so close to Earth it will be visible with binoculars
news
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - York

    £18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: IT Support Technician - Y...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project