Airport capacity crunch to cost UK billions

5 March 2013 (Last Updated March 5th, 2013 18:30)

The UK has to increase direct flights to the world's fastest growing economies or will risk missing out on billions of pounds in trade, according to a new report from the UK's top business lobby group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

Aircraft

The UK has to increase direct flights to the world's fastest growing economies or will risk missing out on billions of pounds in trade, according to a new report from the UK's top business lobby group, the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

CBI warned that unless steps are taken soon, the UK will lag behind other European rivals in establishing new direct routes to countries such as Brazil, Russia and China.

According to the report, the lack of connections will impact long-term export potential, damage competitiveness and hit internal investment.

The report also warned that without new runways and airports, the UK will fail to compete with more attractive hub airports in Europe.

CBI chief policy director Katja Hall said that boosting exports is critical to the country's long-term growth.

"Our analysis shows that just one new daily flight to the eight fastest growing economies in the world could generate as much as £1 billion a year in trade," Hall said.

"Every day we delay expanding our connections, we risk falling further behind our competitors. Firms in high-growth economies are not waiting for us to make a decision before taking their business to countries with much better flight links."

"CBI warned that unless steps are taken soon, the UK will lag behind other European rivals in establishing new direct routes to countries such as Brazil, Russia and China."

The business lobby group demands improvement in surface transport to UK airports, boosting efficiency for passengers and freight, in addition to maximising the catchment area of the country's international airports by 2020.

Additionally, the organisation has called to commercially maximise the capacity of existing assets, including the addition of improved 'mixed mode' operations at Heathrow airport in London.

"For too many businesses, our lack of direct connections means selling abroad to the fast-growing markets is simply not a realistic option," Hall said.

"Firms need frequent direct flights to the widest range of markets."

CBI has also called for construction of new runways in southern UK airports, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Birmingham, in addition to a new airport in the Thames estuary.

CBI Business Environment policy director Rhian Kelly said the Davies Commission must be bold and set out a clear path forward.

"It needs to provide all of our airports with a sustainable licence to grow, with the ability to link exporters with new opportunities," Kelly said.

"This means tackling the growth pinch-points in the air and on the ground. Without convincing plans on aviation capacity, we risk wasting time circling, while our competitors cruise ahead."

The agency has also advocated the implementation of a scheme to boost public transport access to UK airports from the current 40% to 60% by 2030 by adding rail links to key airports.


Image: The report claims a daily flight to major emerging markets could enhance UK trade by £1bn per year.