Heathrow launches Connectivity Task Force

Lord John Shipley of Gosforth has been appointed as the independent chair of the National Connectivity Task Force, which was first announced by Heathrow in its May submission to the Airports Commission.

This announcement coincided with Heathrow’s latest submission to the Airports Commission on its Discussion Paper on Utilisation of the UK’s Existing Airport Capacity.

The Airport say that after meeting with over 25 business groups and many individuals across the UK, they had seen a clear message that Heathrow expansion has the potential to support growth across the whole of the UK, but that the challenge is to make sure that Heathrow can regain the air links to regions and nations that were lost as capacity constraints squeezed out domestic traffic.

Heathrow say people from business, academia and industry from across the UK will be invited to make up the 15-strong Task Force whose purpose is to develop policy proposals and recommendations for improving regional access to an expanded Heathrow. They will report their findings to Heathrow by the end of 2014 to ensure they form a valuable contribution to Airports Commission’s final report and recommendations.

Lord Shipley, Chair of the National Connectivity Task Force, said: “I’m pleased to have been asked to Chair the task force which has a vital job to do in casting a critical eye over how Heathrow currently connects to the rest of the UK, and how this could be improved in the future if a third runway were to be built at the airport.

“This independent Task Force will develop policy proposals and recommendations that will help to better connect the UK to Heathrow, and in turn, to current and emerging markets.”

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s Chief Executive, said: “Only an expanded Heathrow can provide the connectivity needed to connect the whole of the UK to global growth.

“This Task Force will make a valuable contribution to turning Heathrow into a truly national asset for all parts of the UK and one of which we can all be proud.”

The Mayor of London took the setting up of the Task Force as a signal that expanding Heathrow would not bring the regional benefits his preferred Estuary Airport proposal would.

Commenting on the  Task Force, the Mayor of London’s chief advisor on aviation, Daniel Moylan, said: “Heathrow themselves have admitted that additional regional connectivity is not a foregone conclusion should the airport be expanded. It would be full as soon as it opened, meaning valuable domestic flights would continue to be muscled out by more lucrative transatlantic routes. Heathrow are telling cities across the UK that there are a number of possible ‘fixes’ which could safeguard third runway slots for flights to regional airports but the reality is that there is no legal or regulatory trick which can do this. Even a mechanism like the Public Service Obligation (PSO) is very restricted in its application – for example that no competing rail service exists.

“Only a new hub airport with spare capacity will create the conditions to improve connections between London and the rest of the UK and deliver an economic fillip for the entire country by giving us the right internal links to important new and emerging markets in areas such as Latin America and the Far East.”

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