Freight needs Heathrow

heathrow freight planesA report released by the Freight Transport Association shows the value of hub airports to freight and the UK economy.

‘Sky-high value’ argues that freight is a vital component of the economy and that we need to recognise the essential role played by Heathrow, the UK’s only hub airport.

Air freight accounts for around 40% of UK imports and exports by value, and is essential to industries ranging from retailing to manufacturing. The vast majority of freight (around 95%) carried through Heathrow travels in the belly-hold of passenger aircraft, not on dedicated cargo flights. Today’s report argues that the huge range of passenger services available through Heathrow is a key reason for its success as a freight hub, and is illustrated by the fact that 86% of UK belly-hold air freight passes through Heathrow.

The report adds that 39,000 jobs in the UK are supported by air freight, the majority of which are dependent on, or clustered around, Heathrow. It argues that FTA members are united in their view that both existing UK trade, and attempts to grow it, rely on Heathrow keeping its position as the ‘most prestigious freight hub in the world’.

An international logistics firm, Sound Moves, which supports touring artists such as U2 and Katy Perry, has 70 movements a week through Heathrow. Tour Principal, John Corr, said, “Heathrow is essential to our business. It is no coincidence that suppliers to the music industry, as with other sectors such as motor sport, are clustered in the West London area. Heathrow’s multiple daily departures for a huge number of international destinations are crucial to the company meeting the ever tightening time pressure on tour schedules.”

That view is backed up by an un-named pharmaceutical company also quoted in the report. Their strategic logistics manager said, “We need Heathrow and we need it to be a primary hub. It is essential that it receives investment for a new runway because we will start to lose airlines and services to other countries where the hub airports are getting investment and slots are not under so much pressure. If we fail to invest, Heathrow will stop being a key hub for global aviation.”

Ian Veitch, President of the Freight Transport Association, added, “It is imperative that we recognise the inherent advantages Heathrow has as a world-class, global air-freight hub and the unique benefits this brings, not just to the South East of England but to Britain as a whole, through enhanced connectivity to our key overseas markets.”

Welcoming the report, Clare Harbord, Heathrow’s Corporate Affairs Director, said, “This is an extremely valuable piece of work by the FTA. It shows the importance of Heathrow to the freight industry as well as the vital role air freight plays for the UK economy. Both the FTA and Heathrow firmly believe that building on the strength we already have at Heathrow is the best way to deliver the new aviation capacity Britain so desperately needs.”

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