As the UK seeks to expand its global trading relationships post-Brexit, ever more efficient air cargo links will be essential. Heathrow Airport, as the UK’s only international cargo hub, must be capable of handling this increased capacity. That is why it is so important, in the view of FTA – the voice of the logistics industry – that the Department for Transport (DfT) supports Heathrow Limited’s ambition to construct a third runway.

In June 2019, Heathrow Limited launched a three-month consultation into its plans; FTA has submitted its response and fully supports the vision of the proposal. In the view of FTA, the Airport Expansion Consultation lays out a comprehensive airport growth strategy which reinforces and expands the nation’s trading opportunities. Feedback from the consultation will help Heathrow Limited refine its plans before it applies for a Development Consent Order (DCO) in 2020.

Firstly, we agree with Heathrow Limited’s proposals for managing the construction of the third runway and associated infrastructure. This includes delaying the demolition of the stretch of the A4 affected by the third runway until the proposed new A4 diversion is in place and fully operational. According to the project outline, the realignment of the M25 will be constructed off-line, with minimal construction or roadworks taking place on live roads, to avoid disruption to existing motorway traffic.

We are also pleased to see rail freight is poised to play a significant part in the construction phase, which will provide a notable boost to the sector at national level and will improve the environmental and social footprint of the project.

Within the consultation is a proposal to introduce a Heathrow Ultra-Low Emission Zone (HULEZ) by 2022. Under this plan, any passenger or private hire vehicle entering the airport which does not meet prescribed emission standards will be fined; the goal of this scheme is to encourage passengers to use public transport or invest in less polluting vehicles.

While we support the urgent need to improve air quality, Heathrow Airport is right to exclude freight vehicles from the scheme: environmentally friendly HGVs and vans are already flooding the market and HGVs will be subject to a tightening of the London-wide Low Emission Zone from next year. As such, including freight vehicles within the HULEZ would present no long-term benefit to air quality.

Heathrow’s proposals for the night-time operation of the third runway reflect the legal requirement for reduced services at this time. FTA will work with the government and industry to make sure the proposed operations are viable; whatever the solution reached, the plans must strike a fair compromise between the needs of UK businesses, consumers and local residents.

In addition to a third runway at Heathrow Airport, FTA wants to see air cargo capacity increase at other airports to unlock growth across the country. As with ports, adequate road and rail connectivity to airports is vital; this must also be improved if the UK is to maximise the air cargo opportunities available.  

Efficient logistics is vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods.  With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK PLC.  A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers. 

Alex Veitch, Head of Multimodal Policy, FTA