16 MARCH 2015


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Article from BTNews 16 MARCH 2015

COMMENT: Salmon to Northolt

Last Friday the House of Commons Transport Select Committee reported on the smaller regional airportsand today the National Connectivity Task Force. 

Parliament did not touch the ‘hub’ of the problem. 

Yes it warned that the double-charging of APD on domestic return flights incentivises passengers to fly from hub airports in other European countries.  And it pointed out that the proposed devolution of APD to Scotland could place airports in northern England at a serious competitive disadvantage.  But it also spent considerable time discussing Manston, in the opinion of Business Travel News, a lost cause.  Better it looked at Plymouth, a key centre that now has no air links to London due to greedy developers, said something about Prestwick, or taken the time to consider RAF Northolt which could offer a serious interim solution to the regional air transport needs. 

The National Connectivity Task Force was  created last summer under Lord Shipley. Let us hope that this 15-strong group, which includes Sir Rod Eddington (former BA CEO) and  Neal Pakey CEO at Shannon (previoulsy Liverpool), and some real experts in transport, does a better job than the politicians.

Support for BTN’s Northolt campaign has come from an unexpected source with MP Brian Donohoe discovering that the major cargo export from Heathrow is prime Scottish salmon.  It seems that the iconic Scottish fish is the single largest cargo item in the belly-hold of passenger planes. 

The information was contained in a reply to questions from Mr Donohoe about the lack of connectivity between Heathrow and the Scottish regions.

The member for Central Ayrshire is pressing for the airport’s management to support slot guarantees to allow access for flights from Scotland.  He is concerned by the number of short haul routes lost in recent years as British Airways exchanges UK slots for long haul destinations.  

Mr Donohoe is keen to re-establish regional links with Heathrow long before a decision is made on the proposed new London runway.  He has also suggested that Northolt, four miles north of Heathrow, is ideal to provide a temporary solution at minimal cost, without any noise increase, offering a two-way bonus between London and the Provinces.

Heathrow’s policy adviser Adam Tyndall has responded to say that the questions from Mr Donohoe already form part of the remit of the Task Force.  It is expected to gain a mention with the Task Force.

On the matter of exports, the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation says that 88,000 tonnes of the fish are transported to overseas markets every year – and the figure continues to rise, netting £400m a year.

Mr Donohoe sat on the Parliamentary working group under the formidable Gwyneth Dunwoody who sadly passed away in 2008.   The current Transport Committee has 11 members including three from Manchester, one from the Heathrow area, and a Chair from Liverpool.  No others are remotely involved with airports.  Their report did not focus on the real problem.  The new London runway is at least 15 years away.  Something has to be done in the meantime.  Let us hope the Task Force is somewhat more upbeat.  APD complaints are hardly new and Manston is sadly a dead duck.

Please see also:

Mike Carrivick for the Progressive Airline Group www.btnews.co.uk/article/6208
Jock Lowe – Independent ex-BA Flight Ops Director www.btnews.co.uk/article/6216
Colin Matthews – Chief Executive Heathrow Airport Ltd www.btnews.co.uk/article/5984
Daniel Moylan for The Mayor of London www.btnews.co.uk/article/6145
John Redwood – Independently minded Conservative MP for Wokingham (near Reading) www.btnews.co.uk/article/6039

The Maplin Story www.btnews.co.uk/article/4405

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