15 JULY 2019


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Article from BTNews 15 JULY 2019

COMMENT PLUS: London City Airport and London

There are serious access problems on the way. The airport must stand up and be counted!

If the predictions are correct, London City Airport will reach its rolling passenger limit of 6.5m passengers sometime in 2022. With that in mind, the “Draft Master Plan 2020-2035” just published looks into the future with the idea of submitting a new planning application in early 2020. The 2006 Master Plan proved to be remarkably accurate, which gives confidence for this one.

A series of local presentations are being undertaken to try to gain views and ideas for the future. The response to date has been poor, just eight people attending the first showing held at a venue virtually under “short finals” and 20 for the following one. No doubt the noisy minority will make their voice known when the time comes.

In summary, the plan suggests a further boost in allowable traveller throughput numbers, two new aircraft parking stands, an increase in the early-morning departure quotas and the opening of the airport from 12:30 Saturday to 12:30 Sunday, putting LCY in line with the destinations served but keeping an 8hr respite period. There are minor alterations to aircraft parking.

The new taxiway will speed up and smooth out operations on the single runway, 45 movements per hour easily obtainable and, unlike traditional airports, each aircraft on the runway for only around 60sec. No crossing active runways or disappearing off to a holding point. Aircraft landing to DLR station in 10min!

Currently, the airport is set to move just over 5m passengers this year with 80,000 movements, well below the 111,000 allowed, while 11.5m is suggested for 2035 and 151,000 movements.

The rest of the 84-page report is in essence a summary of what is already in the public forum in discussing future aircraft operations, environmental considerations, employment and economics, making the point it is an airport for London.

Two problems face LCY.

The first is attracting additional airlines with the specialised aircraft required for the airport, and hence more passengers and destinations. That one is manageable.

The growth in aircraft size over the next decade is marginal. The new Embraer 190 E2 offers the same capacity as the E190, and the Airbus A220 has around 120 seats, slightly more than the 112-seat Avro it replaces.

The other concern, and just as important, is access.

At certain times, the DLR can hardly cope with current numbers and the LCY plan states clearly a future increase of staff with more using public transport to get to and from work. Perhaps the airport ought to institute a new passenger survey. They are the users.

At present, the two bus routes serving the airport represent just 1% of traffic. A highly-promoted route to Custom House/ExceL will help and would be one way to connect with the Elizabeth Line as things stand. Whether travellers to central London would want to use this suggestion is open to question. A change at Poplar on the DLR is another alternative but the stroll to the new train system is probably 12-15min.

There is a deliberately expensive car park and at least 30% of airport users use taxis according to CAA statistics.

This brings us to the possibilities of introducing a Silvertown station on the Elizabeth Line, even at this late stage. It is practical, cheap and, unlike a 2025 construction, not disruptive.

It will be less than a 10min walk from the terminal, supplemented by courtesy electric transport. If not ready by the time Canary Wharf station opens, turning the trains around at that point will not affect Custom House, Woolwich Arsenal and Abbey Wood, which already offer rail connections. You can’t miss what you don’t have!

By 2023, the DLR will have new trains, raising capacity by 10% as confirmed by DfT. Due to the restrictions of a two-platform station at Woolwich Arsenal, the frequency cannot be increased very much, nor the present arrangement which splits the Bank and Stratford services.

In some ways, LCY has fallen into the same trap as befell John Mowlem & Co plc when it first built the airport in the 1980s. There appears to be little or no consultation with the airline customers, nor a true appraisal of the access problems. In developing the airport, Mowlem had only an enthusiastic chairman to keep a watchful eye on the proceedings. Today, the sums are much bigger and the watchful eyes more attentive.Glasgow wants one and both Bristol and East Midlands suffer without, and Bristol has road access problems too.

Commissioner of transport Mike Brown has stated (in writing) "that we would review any proposal from the airport".

LCY no longer has the same chairman as Crossrail. It needs to start shouting from the rooftops (or terminal top) that even at this late stage Silvertown for London City Airport station is wanted for London, now. It needs to stand up and be counted. It is up to them to sort out the problems with the Elizabeth Line.

What happens next is down to the transport minister, paymaster for Crossrail. Yes he wants it to open as quickly as possible, but don’t spoil the cake by putting on poor icing.

Readers are reminded that in February 2016 it was announced that London City Airport had been sold by Global Infrastructure Partners, the owner since 2006, for a reported £2.3bn to a consortium led by the Alberta Investment Management Corporation.

Philip Hammond, then the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, visited the airport and confirmed approval for a £344m privately-funded terminal redevelopment, more aircraft stands and a parallel taxiway. Since then the cost has risen to a publicly quoted £500m, still of course out of the private purse. One has to ask the question: Will that be enough?

The masterplan has a mention of the Silvertown for London City Airport station (page 69), as if it is known about but not really acknowledged. Why the management is not more outspoken regarding the station we don’t know. Rail stations are part of successful airports (see www.iaro.com).

See also in this issue

Written by Malcolm Ginsberg, associated with the airport since 1982, and the author of "London City Airport, 30 Years Serving the Capital".

london-city-airport     ISBN   978-1-900438-07-0

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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

ed pooley, uk

I suggest the LCY senior management and directors try taking a trip on the seriously overstuffed DLR during peak hours with luggage. Given their apparent attitude to a crossrail station close to the airport it seems unlikely that they have yet done so.