9 DECEMBER 2013

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Article from BTNews 9 DECEMBER 2013

COMMENT: Investment aplenty

The British government’s New Infrastructure Plan (NIP), revealed in this week’s Autumn Statement, has been welcomed by the majority of UK airports and sees £375 billion of planned public and private sector infrastructure investment. 

Although that figure includes money assigned to energy, flood defence, waste, water and communications as well as transport, it does allow several key projects to progress. 

At the forefront of these is £50 million pledged for a full redevelopment of the railway station at Gatwick Airport and confirmation that there will be no tolling on the planned A14 scheme between Cambridge and Huntingdon, construction of which is planned to start in 2016.

Sir Howard Davies, head of the Airports Commission, called for urgent action in the face of a growing crisis at Heathrow and the other South East airports and has written to Chancellor George Osborne recommending a further £200 million worth of investment in rail and road connections, including new rail links to Heathrow from south London and from the southern counties.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: "We welcome the Airports Commission's recommendation,” and continued to point out that “a direct connection from the south has the potential to improve public transport journey times for millions of people living in places like Surrey, Hampshire and South London.”

A Stansted Airport spokesperson also welcomed the news that the A14 was to be improved, saying this was “a big step towards delivering the faster and better connections between Stansted Airport and the region that millions of passengers and commuters have been calling for.
 
“We’re delighted that Sir Howard Davies and the Airports Commission recognise the vital role Stansted will play in making best use of existing capacity over the next ten to 15 years and more than double its economic contribution to UK economy.”
 
Needless to say Gatwick was also ecstatic with the news that the ‘Gatwick Gateway’ was to receive funding.  “Of the 35 million passengers using Gatwick airport each year, 14 million arrive or depart by rail; making it the busiest airport station in Britain”, said Gatwick’s Chief Executive Stewart Wingate.  “This connectivity will be further improved upon completion of a £53m project to improve platform capacity in early 2014 and with the introduction of the Thameslink franchise later that year.”
 
The Airport Operators Association (AOA), the trade body for UK airports, also welcomed the publication of the Government’s plan but has called on Ministers to go further by considering the approval of similar schemes at airports across the whole country.  Darren Caplan, Chief Executive of the AOA, said: “The AOA has set out a list of UK airports where there is a need for projects to improve surface access, and which require Government support.  We respectfully ask the Department for Transport to build upon the positive start made in the NIP and work with airports to develop these schemes further.”        

It’s early days, but with the NIP also recommending a £10 million prize fund for a town or city to develop as a testing ground for driverless cars, anything is possible.

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