Opinion: A four runway hub airport?

Flying isn’t something most people do for fun but connections are good for business and prosperity. Thankfully the Committee on Climate Change says that aviation can expand without risking our ambitious climate change targets.

Hub airports are particularly important. They draw in passengers from a range of places, making flights to many destinations viable. The one flight from Wuhan to Europe – to Paris – relies on transfers at Charles de Gaulle. That flight gives Paris a head start in attracting the European HQs of firms from Wuhan. I want flights like that to come to London, not Paris.

I think Britain should have what every major city has: a four runway hub. New York, Paris, Frankfurt: all have four runway hub airports. The question is how to provide one, at an acceptable economic and social cost.

Boris Johnson and Foster and Partners propose building one on the Isle of Grain. This is not the answer. Putting aside the colossal financial cost, and the local environmental costs, and this still isn’t the answer. Yes, it would be quieter, but it is slow to get to, at least for those who don’t live next door to St Pancras station. An airport that is hard to get to misses the point: flying is about speed.

Given where people live and work, Heathrow is much the easiest airport to get to. But expanding Heathrow has traditionally been far too noisy to contemplate. That is why Susan Kramer and others in all parties were right to campaign against the third runway.

My report solves this access v noise issue by proposing a four runway Heathrow, but with all four runways further west. They would be located over the M25 and Wraysbury reservoir. The runways would be relatively close together. Moving the runways west makes planes higher and so quieter over London, and keeping them close together reduces the width of the noise, and so the number of people who can hear the planes. These two factors alone mean that the number of people affected by daytime noise would fall by a quarter, even though the number of planes would rise by three quarters.

I would go further in reducing noise. First, I would ban the noisiest planes altogether. Second, I would end night flights – possible because of the extra slots. Third, I would land narrow bodied planes more steeply, so that they are (even) higher up and so (even) quieter.

Together this package gives us a larger, but quieter Heathrow airport. No airport will ever be silent, but this is the quietest expansion of Heathrow we are ever likely to see.

For sure, Liberal Democrats have long opposed expanding Heathrow. But we did so, not as a fundamental principle, but because we were concerned about noise. If the facts about noise change, we should change our minds.

* Tim Leunig is Chief Economist at CentreForum. He served as an advisor to the Barker Review on Land Use, and is a former Inside Housing columnist.

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  • Peter Watson 5th Oct '12 - 10:41am

    “Liberal Democrats have long opposed expanding Heathrow. But we did so, not as a fundamental principle, but because we were concerned about noise.”
    I had not realised that. I knew that for the tories it was about local votes overriding the needs of the general economy, but I thought the Lib Dems had a more deep-rooted opposition based upon wanting to reduce the impact of air travel on global warming.

  • We can expand our aviation without risking our climate change targets…. I would be interested in the evidence for this.

  • Dennis Brown 5th Oct '12 - 10:46am

    The awful part of this debate is that it is all based on the presumption of getting more business people to the same place. And being “macho”, such that “my airport’s bigger than yours”.

    Surely business can be conducted in other locations – Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool etc. Other parts of the UK exist – even Wales and Scotland!

    But more importantly, why do business men have to all be in the same room to do business and not just on the end of a video link? The latter is surely quicker, can actually leave a verbatim record and does not cause so much pollution.

    Time to stand back and consider what you are really doing and why!

  • Peter – Ian: The evidence on why growing aviation and climate change is discussed on p. 65 of the report: http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/images/publications/bigger%20and%20quieter.pdf. It comes from the Ctte on Climate Change. LD policy is to allow growth in aviation outside the SE. If we consistently opposed increases in aviation on climate change grounds that would be consistent, but that is not our policy.
    Dennis – Of course there are placed outside the SE – and one of the consequences of constraining LHR is that airlines have pulled most of their internal flights to Heathrow. So it is very awkward to get from Newquay to China. A successful Heathrow is emphatically good for the regions. As for video links – all the evidence is that business is better face to face. Let’s be honest, people wouldn’t do two day trips to far flung places, often in economy class, if it wasn’t really important for their business.

  • Richard Dean 5th Oct '12 - 10:56am

    Why does a hub have to be in one place?

    Why not a Distributed Hub, with runways at say Heathrow, Manchester, Newcastle, and Bristol? With seamless HS2 connections with inboard IT connectivity so that a traveller to Chester can arrive at any one of the four and but go throiugh customs and collect baggage at Manchester?

    Such an arrangement would share both the pain and the gain better, and be more robust – fog in one place and planes could all be diverted to another without disrupting travellers much – and safer, with greater flexibility to choose flight paths based on safety rather than noise.

  • Richard Dean 5th Oct '12 - 11:03am

    Business flights are not just about meetings, but also inspections and explorations and physical work. A safety engineer might need to inspect a structure for cracks, cast an expert exploratory eye over its foundations, and direct machinens and people to make bespoke repairs. A production manager might need to inspect machinery, observe work practices, make judgments or decisions based on local factors, sort out local disputes. A merketing executive might need to experience the culture to understand how to connect. Video can’t do everything yet.

  • A new airport where there is space to build it seems the sensible option.
    And avoiding putting it the wrong side of London (as far as the rest of the country is concerned) means it has to be built in the 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock sector of the M25.
    Anyone who has to get past the current Heathrow airport knows that it is a traffic disaster.
    Transport links will need careful planning.

  • A “distributed hub” is a contradiction in terms. I am offering a 60 minute guaranteed connection between flights, and a typical gate-gate connection time of 15 minutes. That is not possible unless the planes are close together. I agree about site visits, inspections etc.
    Probook – I agree about 9-12 o’clock. For that reason my runner up location is Luton – but it is much hillier, and much more expensive to build. I also agree about traffic, and have a big section on that. For example, I also offer train service to Waterloo, Clapham Jn, Richmond, Reading Woking and Windsor, as well as the direct Crossrail service to Canary Wharf, Stratford, etc. I also keep all the non-London car/bus arrivals outside the M25. You would go to the edge of the airport, where a light rail shuttle would take you to the terminal/pier. This also gets rid of all the car rental/car park shuttle buses that cause on- and near- airport congestion – the shuttle takes you to these as well.

  • “Let’s be honest, people wouldn’t do two day trips to far flung places, often in economy class, if it wasn’t really important for their business.”

    Unless they viewed the ‘business trip’ as a kind of all-expenses-paid holiday that came as a perk with the job, in which case they might well want to give researchers the impression that face-to-face meetings were really vital, even if all the relevant information could be exchanged by other means.

    But who could imagine such a thing?

  • I’ve read bits of the report and it looks very good.

    I have one question which is kind of addressed in page 18-20, but I don’t think totally.

    Hub demand is presumably because it is cheaper or more practical or more sustainable to fly more people in larger planes between key destinations and then smaller (spokes?) to the end destination than to have smaller planes doing direct flights.

    But if Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and possibly a few other airports desire to be the key hub, are we sure that there will be enough demand? You note London has some advantages, but how sure are we that London can’t compete (on landing charges etc) and the capacity is unused?

  • >Thankfully the Committee on Climate Change says that aviation can expand without risking our ambitious climate change targets..

    “International aviation and shipping should not be included in budgets” [key recommendation in the section headed “The proposed level of the first three carbon budgets” of “Building a low-carbon economy –
    the UK’s contribution to tackling climate change”, Committee on Climate Change, December 2008]; I haven’t seen a statement that updates this policy position.

    >I think Britain should have what every major city has: a four runway hub. New York, Paris, Frankfurt
    Why? Also confused argument here, from your report, I assume you actually mean London and are just using Britain in some misguided attempt to get people living outside of London and easy access to Heathrow, to nod their heads in agreement before they realise what it is they are agreeing to.

    >Given where people live and work, Heathrow is much the easiest airport to get to.
    That is an opinion not a fact, I suggest you look at the current reality about access to Heathrow from places other than central London.

    >My report solves this access v noise issue
    Nice report -there where many points that made me laugh! but conspicuous by it’s absence are the elephants in the room, namely, our current lifestyles are unsustainable and the economic exhaustion of oil – a fuel source that we have yet to find an alternative suitable for aviation, circa 2029 and according to reports on UK government whitepapers on energy security could be well before 2020 for the UK . Also from my readings, there would seem to be disagreement as to whether the world’s growing population will really be better off and hence have monies necessary to afford air travel or will just have better living conditions combined with a more sustainable lifestyle.

  • Chris: I doubt many of the people going to Madrid every Monday for a day trip see it as a jolly. Home, taxi, airport, flight, taxi, meeting, taxi, airport, flight, taxi, home.
    Matthew: Unlike Boris Island or HS2, this would be privately financed. Everything the airlines say suggests that they think demand is there. Ultimately it s a commercial decision.
    Roland: The CCC say we can have a 60% rise from 2005 levels. The access to LHR versus other airports is a fact – it comes from a CAA report. One problem with a constrained LHR is the lack of regional flights to other parts of the UK.

  • Dominic Curran 5th Oct '12 - 1:08pm

    Have you read Andrew Lainton’s response to your proposals, Tim? http://andrewlainton.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/now-the-policy-exchange-wants-to-demolish-poyle/

    Be warned, it isn’t exactly complimentary!

  • Richard Dean 5th Oct '12 - 1:11pm

    A Country-Wide Distributed Hub is not at all a contradiction in terms. Quite the reverse. The concept, including Manchester, Newcastel, Brostol, and possibly other regional airports, offers many substantial benefits …

    > convenience: flights to and from the US and to and from Europe through all four airports, thereby achieving the 60-minute and 150 minute timings cliamed for an extended Heathrow

    > more convenience: a perhaps 90 minute guaranteed joruney time between arrival at Newcastle and offloading at Norwich, with all immigration, customs, and baggage handling done on the HS2 train. Walk on walk off.

    > for aircraft that could not land in snow-bound Heathrow, the alternative of landing in sunny Newcastle with virtually no change to net journey time to UK destinations

    > jobs to the people of Manchester, Newcastle, and Bristol as well as West London,

    > safer and more fuel-efficient flights, without the need to compromise safety and incresase fuel consumption on steeper take-off and landing paths

    > reduced total fuel costs and pollution impacts, since passengers travelling to destinations in the regions won’t need to birn the extra fuel on long train joruneys afetr landing

    > removal of incentives for companies to crowd London and the South East, and the reduction of misery from congested traffic, noise, and high housing costs and overcrowding there.

    > incentives for new companies to locate around the country, thereby further increasing job prospects and wealth in the regions

    > possibly even a reduction in air traiffic at Heathrow, less noice, less congestion, and perhps a return of some of the land to residential or other use

    We already have the technical know-how for running the air-traffic side of a distributed hub – that is what the several London airports are at the present time (eg.with some connections involving bus transit between Gatwick and Heathrow). While I agree that Centreforum’s proposals are commendably imaginative, I think it’s also worth evaluating the benefits of a Country-Wide Distributed Hub and comparing them fairly with those claimed for other proposals.

  • >The awful part of this debate is that it is all based on the presumption of getting more business people to the same place. [Dennis Brown 5th Oct ’12 – 10:46am]

    No the awful part of this debate is that business need is being used to justify an expansion that will support increasing levels of non-business and non-essential usage. What is clear is that landing charges and passenger duty are currently set too low at Heathrow …

    >But more importantly, why do business men have to all be in the same room to do business and not just on the end of a video link?
    The questions aren’t so much about why do they have to all be in the same room, but why do they find it necessary to do it so often? and will the Facebook generation do similar?

  • Tim >The CCC say we can have a 60% rise from 2005 levels.

    I know the CCC have said that, however as of today (please would you kindly provide a reference to the policy change), international aviation is not included in our climate change targets. Hence the original statement in your article is a little disingenuous.

    Also the CCC advice concerning the 60% expansion is heavily caveated, saying that technology improvements, biofuels, and more efficient air traffic management would be insufficient to bring aviation emissions down to 2005 levels by 2050, and that further measures, such as constraints on slot use or runways, or the introduction of a carbon tax, would be necessary. Additionally, there two further assumptions: firstly there is international agreement and action on aviation emissions and secondly that some of the increase in aviation emissions (up to 49 MtCO2 in 2050 from 35 MtCO2 in 2005) will be offset against other domestic savings. Whilst I have no doubts the engineers will deliver technology improvements, I have grave doubts over the ability of politicians to deliver…

  • Tim,

    a useful contribution to this important debate on future Aviation capacacity that considers the effect of advances in modern aircraft designs. I hope we will see an integrated transport strategy as part of the Aviation capacity review. With HS2, Birmingham becomes quite feasable as a major central hub.. Narita has worked well for Japan for several decades with its high speed rail links to Tokyo. Another alternative worth revisiting is RAF Graydon, located midway between London and Birmingham, that becomes much more practical if the HS2 route connects to the location.

  • Mr Leunig, this sounds a good idea. But have you considered using the existing two runways for planes arriving from the West or taking off to the West (and perhaps creating the new Sipson runway for good measure), while creating 2-3 of your new runways in the West for planes arriving from the East or taking off to the East?

    This would bring all the same noise-reduction benefits for West London, with none of the costs for Windsor. Of course, taxi distances might be worse (although the exising runways are better placed for Terminals 1-3, so maybe not), and the simplicity of the ‘toast-rack’ might be ruined, but these are minor considerations.

  • Joe: Birmingham has only one runway, and no space to expand. How can that be the answer?
    Ed T: Sounds like a recipe for crashes to me! And Sipson increases the width of the noise corridor dramatically.

  • jenny barnes 5th Oct '12 - 4:22pm

    ex RAF Gaydon (South of Coventry near the M40) or Chalgrove (East of Oxford ditto) and both near proposed HS2 are sites where you could probably build a 4 runway airport and the necessary infrastructure. The proposal to build over the reservoirs doesn’t look at all sensible.
    Personally I absolutely hated business travel when I had to do a lot of it. But, strangely, after 9/11, the company suddenly decided it was no longer necessary. What a relief! I think people who don’t have to travel on business might think it was a perk, but certainly it isn’t for many.

  • Tim,

    Vince Cable, among othere, is backing airpot expansion at Birmingham Birmingham airport expansion . Surely, worth some serious consideration.

  • “Chris: I doubt many of the people going to Madrid every Monday for a day trip see it as a jolly. Home, taxi, airport, flight, taxi, meeting, taxi, airport, flight, taxi, home.”

    No doubt there are business trips that aren’t very pleasant, and that can’t easily be avoided.

    But coming up with the example of someone going to Madrid every Monday proves nothing at all about what percentage fall into that category, and what percentage – on the other hand – are highly enjoyable for the businessmen concerned, and are not likely to be replaced by virtual conferences and the like whatever the environmental considerations.

    Of course, if you have any hard information about that, as opposed to anecdote, it would be interesting to hear it.

  • David Allen 5th Oct '12 - 5:54pm

    Business trips, in my experience, are a mixture. They can be a slog, they can be great fun. Very often the trips you go on out of pure duty turn out to be fun. Very often the trips someone thinks are a perk turn out to be a pain.

    At the end of the day, you have to trust the people you choose to deal with. You do tend to gain that trust late at night in the bar somewhere. You can’t do it in a telecon.

    However, it’s amazing what you can do in a telecon if you simply must. There are times when you have to organise big projects purely by telecon and email because there is no money to do anything else. When forced to do it, you do it. It tends to work much better than you’d ever have expected.

    Once upon a time, way back, things were properly set up to balance out environmental and economic considerations in all of this. Before Ryanair came along, an airline ticket cost a bomb. So nobody got permission to fly without a struggle. Result, business meetings when really needed, environmental savings when they weren’t. Let’s have a big hike in aviation taxes, worldwide, by agreement. Then those days will return, and we just won’t need the third runway.

  • Richard Dean 5th Oct '12 - 6:00pm

    What places like Wuhan (www.wuhan.com) seem to need is access to markets. Europe is a bigger market than the UK, and Paris is closer to most European customers than the UK. So is Frankfurt and Milan.

    Does the argument really stand up, then, that more runways will attract future Wuhans to fly to a UK hub? Is there any relevant evidence?

  • Richard,

    “Does the argument really stand up, then, that more runways will attract future Wuhans to fly to a UK hub? Is there any relevant evidence?”

    New runways/airports will be built and paid for by the Aviation industry based on their own commercial assessment of demand for their product. Taxpayers will be responsible for funding the connecting road and rail infrastructure.

    The locations should be determined principally by market demand. The cost to the taxpayer of providing infrastructure should be recouped over time by our old friend – Land Value Tax. Assessing LVT on airport landing slots will make regional airports far more attractive in cost terms than high value slots in London and the Southeast..

    Ryanair has built its capacity on the utilisation of low cost airports some distance from the cities they serve. The same situation would arise with commercial business flights i.e. lower cost flights from regional airports will attract demand and new airline competitors to base their hubs outside of Heathrow and other london airports.

  • David

    I was relieved to read the third and fourth paragraphs of your comment.

    Somebody really needs to be thinking about the sustainability of economic growth, and not simply assuming that it can carry on for ever and that the more of it we can get the better.

  • Richard Dean 5th Oct '12 - 7:43pm

    Joe. Interesting, thanks, but what you present are beliefs about payments and costings, not evidence on whether new Wuhans will choose to fly to the UK.

  • Cllr Ian Beardmore 5th Oct '12 - 7:58pm

    The rejection of Heathrow expansion was about a very great deal more than noise. This is typical think tank rubbish all tanked and no think ON TUESDAY I am presenting the following Motion to Surrey CC…
    This council opposes any proposals to build additional runways at Heathrow and Gatwick airports or increase air traffic at other airports in and around Surrey, such as Farnborough and Biggin Hill, as this would damage Surrey’s environment and adversely impact on Surrey’s residents.
    Council agrees to write to the Secretary of State for Transport to express its view that while being pro economic growth the Surrey environment must be protected and alternatives to airport expansion in the South East must be found.
    I think this far better reflects the Lib Dem view on this matter

  • Several points need to be made.

    Different policies are required for the long-term and the interim.

    As aviation grows, so demand for a bigger central hub will increase. This is a massive investment and planning will need to take into account factors such as location, access and connectivity, environmental impacts including noise.

    This begs the question, how far are we prepared to look into the future?

    Even maximising land usage at Heathrow will store up additional problems for the future, and I’m not convinced that people such as myself who live to the west of the site will be happy at increases in overflights – especially as Berkshire is among the areas pinpointed for highest growth in the next 50-100 years.

    Back to now. BAA’s figures show them currently transferring freight from regional airports where there is ample capacity to their main sites where there is less capacity.

    For example Southampton processed 132 tonnes of freight in 2011, while Heathrow processed 1.5 million tonnes. This is partly to do with the number of air freight service companies having located themselves and grown up around west London, but considering the additional pressure this puts on passenger services a more creative approach to incentivising transfer of freight traffic to the regions by relocating freight companies would free up significant levels of capacity and aid regional employment.

    The effect of airport operators demand manipulation across the spectrum of sites has huge implications for corporate profitability overall, since the sale of take-off and landing slots constitutes the major income stream for them. Put simply, it suits BAA to state Heathrow and Gatwick operate at or close to capacity because this inflates the market value for slots. Arguing for additional runways therefore satisfies shareholder demands for profit boosts.

    Operators of multiple airports are incentivised to manipulate commercial demand at the expense of consumer need. Would they be able to report similar levels of demand were the market for slots be opened up by the break-up of the dominant player in the sector, former national monopoly BAA? Are BAA’s Spanish owners well positioned to decide capacity provision in the best interests of travellers to and from Britain?

    Also, while discussions about regional expansion continues we should highlight that this is premature while capacity problems are focussed solely on Heathrow and Gatwick.

    Digging down deeper into traffic figures (taking Heathrow and Gatwick as the benchmark representing full capacity), Manchester and Stansted currently operate at 50%, Luton, Edinburgh and Birmingham operate at 25%, and Glasgow, Bristol, Newcastle, Liverpool, East Midlands and Belfast International operate at 10-20% capacity. Aberdeen, Prestwick, London City, Belfast City, Southampton, Cardiff and Leeds operate at 5-10%.

    All these sites carry less freight – combined – than either Heathrow or Gatwick. Proportionally the figure is much worse.

    It needs to be made plain that the real debate about air passenger travel provision revolves around plans involving better utilisation of current infrastructure with improvements, or a whole new layer of infrastructure.

    If we’re talking about one flight per week to 20 new destinations from a hub site then Heathrow does not need replacement.

    If we’re talking about daily or multiple daily flights to 100+ new destinations then we must choose between a combination of better usage of regional airports and a new hub. In which case this needs to be balanced with transfer improvements via HST and other forms of land transport access.

    A new hub cannot be built at the expense of better utilisation of regional airports, and therefore its location should be decided by accessibility, not geography.

  • Richard,

    the airline industry will determine the evidence as to ‘whether new Wuhans will choose to fly to the UK’ based on their product offerings and competitiveness with other Europeam destinations. If the demand is there, flights will be scheduled wherever suitable landing slots are available.

    Japan’s Tokyo city airport ran out of capacity decades ago. Narita was built 36 miles from Tokyo and this became the main hub together with airports in Osaka and the northern and southern islands. .

    The Japanese government has built new regional airports in recent years, mostly in an effort to boost the economy with a fiscal stimulus, but they largely remain empty waiting for a regional economic revival to absorb the excess capacity. This is why the speed and extent of capacity development should be left to the private sector with government playing a supporting role in furnishing connecting road and rail infrastructure development paid for with LVT on landing slots.

  • Oranjepan: BAA have not owned Gatwick for years and are about to sell off Stansted. So all four big London airports will have separate owners. (LGW and LCY share an owner). I don’t think anyone really doubts that LHR is full, whichever way you look at it.

    The LHR freight is almost all bellyhold – you can’t really land the passengers at Heathrow and the freight at Southampton!

  • Richard Dean 5th Oct '12 - 10:00pm


    I think you may have misunderstood what I meant by “evidence”. I am asking what is the evidence that travellers travelling to markets in Europe would prefer a UK hub as opposed to a continental one, if both hubs have capacity? Travelling to the UK hub would entail the subsequent inconvenience of a connecting flight to Europe.

    The new UK hub is presently hypothetical, so we are justified in asking the following hypothetical question. Suppose Tokyo and Narita both had capacity, and the markets that travellers wanted to visit were in Tokyo. What evidence is there that, in a situation like this, the travellers would choose to go via Narita?

  • Keith Browning 5th Oct '12 - 11:05pm

    Petrol usage drops by 10% and now warnings about the availablity of electricity supply in the near future. Yet people are talking about air travel growing as though the world economic recession had never occured and that there was still plenty of cheap energy about. Are people suggesting that we will live in blacked-out homes and only using the car for essential journeys yet will still be winging round the planet on large metal birds like before – only more so.

    I still haven’t seen a sensible transport plan for the future that takes ‘peak oil’ and the financial situation into account.

  • Richard,

    were I undertaking long term business planning/passenger number forecasts for UK airport operators, I would be looking closely at our experience with emerging markets. We know the levels of increased air traffic and inward investment to the UK that occurred as Japan grew to an economic power and as other Asian tigers developed modern capitalist economies. We can expect at least similiar levels of activity, if not considerably greater, with the Bric countries. This presents significant commercial opportunities to the Aviation industry that they will seek to capitalise on.

    LVT on landing slots would allow us to capture the economic rents that are currently enjoyed by the industry and provides the means for funding a significant element of the national investment in road and rail connection infrastructure. At present airport operators have a major incentive to maximise the use of capacity in the most valuable locations in London and the Southeast, where economic rents are at their greatest. Taxing slots to capture these economic rents for the public benefit could serve to remove the operators commercial incentives for overutilisation of Heathrow and level the playing field for other regional airports.

  • Richard Dean 6th Oct '12 - 12:52am


    Thanks, I’m sure the experience you mention is indicative, though market and political conditions now may be different from previously. Your second paragraph raises a interesting question. Do decisions on aviation strategy depend critically on the introduction of LVT? If so, everything gets complicated – the country would have to make decisions about LVT before it could make decisions about air travel.

  • Andy Boddington 6th Oct '12 - 8:18am

    Tim Leunig has failed to consider the environmental impacts of this scheme. His proposal to bulldoze a RAMSAR protected wetland of international importance for the runways is a non-starter. Or are the Lib Dems follow the Tories in believing that environment is a necessary casualty of economic growth – rather than the route to it?

  • Tim,
    thanks, that’s appreciated, but the principles still apply.

    While no longer under a monopoly, the air transport market suffers from competition issues because the limited number of operators in the UK are able to exert unhealthy influence as a result of their territorial dominance. Demand manipulation is prime among these in this sector.

    As with the banks and supermarkets, competition and choice is the best guarantee of a good deal. Break-up of BAA therefore allies closely with Joe’s point about taxing slots. Politically we promote economic competition as a driver of efficiency, so I think it is only sensible that we should consider capacity requirements under the full range of regulatory conditions.

    Air freight also gains relevance as an issue when discussing long-haul flights for several reasons.

    In terms of tonne-kilometres, air freight is only competitive for longer distances and relatively light high-value goods (including people, but also mail), which economies become increasingly reliant upon as they develop trade and the transport links, such as those which your report seeks to provide for. Meanwhile Eurostat estimates consistent international extra-EU-27 freight growth of almost 20% in 2010 and 2011 – this is described as ‘impressive’ and compares to ‘steady’ passenger growth over the same periods of about 7%. Furthermore freight demand tends to be more resistant to economic cycles than passengers.

    Although business travellers are relatively high value, in technical terms there is no distinction between passenger weight and goods weight. Air transport is extremely weight sensitive (as I’m sure you’ll concede is demonstrated by companies levying significant charges for additional or overweight luggage) as each aircraft has a maximum certified gross weight, known as All-Up Weight, so any additional cargo necessarily reduces passenger load – I’m not sure it’s a winning strategy to attempt to fight the laws of physics!

    Which means the question returns to predicting future usage demands, in particular whether your analysis envisages single weekly flights to a destination (as with your example of Wuhan), or multiple daily flights to a destination, with corresponding benefits for capacity flexibility.

    Are you looking at the development of global intra-hub trunk air-routes with multiple transfers at either end or a far wider spread of cities accessible by direct flights… or are you only concerned with potential benefits for the British economy?

  • @ Andy,
    becoming an environmental refusnik is a non-starter, economic development can (and ideally should) go hand in hand with better environmental management.

  • Dan: MAN-HKK clearly isn’t viable, or someone would be doing it! It may be that demand is very peaky (600 one day, 0 the next), or that all the demand is for discounted-economy seats. You need business class and full fare economy passengers to make a flight like that viable. As I said in my report, I think that transfer pax should pay tax, and that this is best achieved by moving to per plane duty, rather than passenger duty. The benefit of a hub is discussed in the report: there are routes (eg Mexico City, but there are others, including many in Canada, as well as emerging nation destinations) that are only viable because Heathrow is a hub.
    Richard: Clearly virtually no-one is going to to fly Wuhan-London-Paris if they can fly Wuhan-Paris direct. The question is whether the person travelling to Bergen changes at London or Paris. There is no reason to think we will lose out in this competition, particular as my airport is designed for easy cross-airline transfers, and because lots more people speak English than French.
    Andy: I would rather not remove a RAMSAR site – and I discuss it in the paper – but removing one reservoir is a lot less troublesome for birds than Boris’s plan! It is a relatively easy habitat to recreate.
    Oranjepan: I am concerned with the British economy.

  • Toby Fenwick 6th Oct '12 - 11:42am

    I applaud Tim’s paper – it’s constructive, and is grounded in economic reality. On the environmental points, it seems to me to be possible to have growth in flight numbers and emissions within a declining cap if there are greater off-setting savings elsewhere. GIven that it is likely to be much cheaper to decarbonise other elements of the UK economy than aviation (for the simple lack of alternative fuels), this seems to me a straightforward and logical conclusion.

    On the economics of regional airports to the BRICs, if Blackpool – Beijing or Manchester-Chennai (Madras) had sufficient demand, then there are plenty of slots at regional airports to facilitate this. Hence, either the airlines are refusing to lay on profitable flights (highly unlikely) or the demand simply isn’t there. And this is where Tim’s paper is possibly the best explanation of the need for a UK hub I’ve seen: it’s about using transfer passengers to make otherwise marginal routes profitable, leading to more UK direct flights, which we know to be the most useful from a business and investment perspective. “Virtual” hubs, regional airports and all the rest don’t deliver this key benefit.

    Personally – and I should declare an interest as being a member in Putney under the flight path – I would strongly prefer the Luton option on the grounds that the positioning is better for the whole country, it allows construction to take place whilst operations at LHR continue unaffected, and it releases 5,500 acres of brownfield site with great transport links for in effect a new town in west London by 2030. In utilitarian terms it also improves the lives of far more people than would be affected by the very precise positioning of the Luton option.

  • Richard Dean 6th Oct '12 - 12:27pm

    Manchester-HKK could certainly be viable with a high speed train system linking the UK’s major cities and airports. It could take the route away from London-HKK, so alleviating the present capacity problems in London without the huge disruption to many thousands of lives that the CF proposals will cause.

    Isn’t there also a question of whether enough people fly to/from Bergen to justify this huge expansion? Is the main purpose to attract inward investment to create factories and jobs in this country? Or is this a commercial venture to catch the custom of passengers in transit to some other investment destination?

  • I am with Jenny Barnes, didn’t they fly the Vulcan bomber from RAF Gaydon?.. now that needed a BIG runway, and made a heck of a racket. South Warwicksire population density is low, and HS2 right along-side.. brilliant.. even better option than taking over RAF Fairford now they are not flying B52s.
    But meanwhile, the answer to SE capacity is two-fold, landing fees and passenger duty and choice of plane.
    a) the proposed change to make fees and duties per flight instead of per passenger should be introduced immediately
    b) that would concentrate the minds of the operators, persuade them to use the larger capacity, more efficient and quieter A380… and create jobs for the UK avaition industry in building more A380s (Dan Falchikov, wash your mouth out!).

  • Toby Fenwick 6th Oct '12 - 1:25pm

    @Richard: MAN – HKG (not HKK – Hokitika, NZ – presumably) is only more appealing than an LHR – HKG flight if it is:

    (i) cheaper,
    (ii) more convenient or
    (iii) both.

    If it is, then I’ll choose Manchester. But currently LHR – HKG has 1 Virgin, 4 Cathay Pacific, 3 BA – at least 8 directs. Manchester currently has NO direct flights – presumably because the airlines don’t believe that there is a market for them.

  • Richard: it is about jobs and prosperity for the UK. There are 4 flights a day to Bergen, I think, so that looks like a pretty economic route to me. A relatively low proportion will be transfers on a route like that.
    Richard/Peter: 25% of business travellers arrive at LHR within 30 minutes. That won’t be true for MAN or Gaydon. Look at the history of Mirabel, or even the survival of Haneda/La Guardia/Linate. Distant airports are unpopular, because they are slow and expensive to get to. A lot of people get to LHR for £2.90 with an oyster card, and others get their by mini cab, from home. Neither is possible with Gaydon. The report supports per plane duties, but obviously A380s are not suited to every route. It is very unlikely that raising the average size of plane will free up more than a handful of slots.

  • Richard Dean 6th Oct '12 - 2:12pm

    LHR-HKG is not convenient if your business is in Manchester or Newcastle or Cardiff, or if your Chinese investor needs to get to Edinburgh. People go via LHR now because the airlines have chosen LHR, not the passengers. They complain about the associated necessary rail journey to Norwich or Liverpool, but can’t do anything.

    A new aviation strategy does allow us to do something, to make choices on the basis of what’s best for people and for the country, rather than what’s best for the airlines and their shareholders. Localism is a LibDem policy, spreading both the gain and the pain nationwide rather than focussing on London and the SE.

    And if the aviation strateagy includes high speed rail links between major cities and airports, with seamless air-train connectivity, baggage and passort etc handled on the train rather than at the airport, we may possibly have a winning alternative with an added advantage of less disruption to people’s lives and less environmental damage.

  • Toby Fenwick 6th Oct '12 - 4:38pm

    @ Richard: I am full committed to HS2 and full integration with the new hub airport. Indeed, (contra Tim), I wish that we’d push HS2 further faster by committing the resources to complete the whole network, including to Edinburgh / Glasgow as soon as practically possible – and certainly by 2025.

    But I am not convinced that, as you imply, the airlines are not actively looking for non-LHR route options; the recent launch of Newcastle – Dubai by Emirates (bit.ly/Rli2a5) suggests that they are – and that there simply isn’t the demand for MAN – HKG. Government policy can’t make it so.

    Finally, Tim is surely right about the limited effect of increasing the average size of aircraft on slots at LHR.

    Per Plane Duty would incentivise increased load factors, but the only obvious way to reduce low capacity narrowbodies flying into LHR would be to massively increase APD for those domestic routes where rail is a practical alternative: if it cost £500 in APD to fly from London to Manchester, everyone would take the train. But surely this isn’t what the regional airports or their economies would want?

  • Richard Dean 6th Oct '12 - 5:37pm

    @Toby,. It’s not about what is happening now. It’s about what we want to make happen in future.

    One of the things we might want to make happen is a more equitable geographic distribution of wealth and industry. If we achieve that, then customer choices will be different to what they are now, and will likely be more consistent with a Distributed Hub. By contrast, a London hub might be a factor on the side of preventing us achieving what we want.

    Tim’s study addresss the question: IF it’s to be a London hub, how shold we do it? It does not seem to focus on the different question: What type of future do we want, and what type of hub is best for that future?

  • Tim is certainly to be congratulated on introducing some fresh,economically sound thinking into the debate. However, if the proposals gets implemented and his neighbours find out it was his idea, he may have too move house.

    I have been scuba diving in Wraysbury Lake myself and living near the airport know only too well the strength of feeling in the London Boroughs and surrounding counties against further expansion at Heathrow.

    Willie Walsh, CEO at British Airways, has given up on a third runway at Heathrow. He has recently said it would be an interim solution only, perhaps for the next fifteen years, by which time we would be reaching capacity levels again. The BA chief wants to see a long term solution i.e. a four runway hub that can take us to 2050 and beyond.

    If there is to be a medium-term solution then the proposals for Luton are perhaps the best option for the next 15 years or so, until HS2 is completed.

  • Richard – there is a chapter in my paper on non-SE airports. The reality is that there is plenty of capacity in non-SE airports, and so we already have a successful govt policy for them, which is to allow them to expand. If you have any ideas for how to redistribute income then do offer to write a post for LDV. I have had my say on that one…
    Joe: some back of the envelope noise contour work says that this proposal would have c 175k people within the 57dB contour, compared with 240k currently. There is no reason for west London to lynch me. I have not spoken to Willie Walsh, but I imagine he prefers my ideas to Boris Island, about which he has been damning.
    Dane – there is a chapter in the paper on Boris Island, explaining why it is not a sensible way forward.

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 12:18am

    Apologies for missing a chapter – speed reading again! If there is plenty of capacity available from non-SE airports, then why are we thinking of Heathrow? The Distributed Hub has all these major advantages …

    1. Low cost, since the capacity is there or easy to make,
    2. Environment: The damage and life disruptions of the Heathrow and Boris Island proposals won’t happen
    3. .Consistent with a policy of persuading companies out of London and the SE, thereby improving life everywhere
    4. The high speed rail inks won’t be extra, since they are needed for the London options anyway

  • Richard: the reason for not considering a distributed hub is that you are the only person who thinks it will work!!! I have changed planes in 40 mins in FRA. You can’t do that if you land in Bristol and take off in Manchester!! It would also be very expensive to build that quantity of HS lines – remember that London Birmingham is £30bn, for little more than 100m of track.

  • Leekliberal 7th Oct '12 - 10:19am

    Tim – Your London centric case ignores the fact that the vast bulk of us live to the NORTH of this overheated city. You will be unaware how much we resent being forced to use a London airport on long-haul flights . With HS2 happening, ideally Birmingham and even Manchester should be the choice for the hub,

  • Toby Fenwick 7th Oct '12 - 10:27am

    Richard – and for your idea to work, it would need be airside to airside at least 10 times an hour, connecting every terminal with every other terminal in under 14 mins for a total travel time of approximately 20 mins to allow for guaranteed 60 minute connections – effectively the operational definition of a hub.

    Heathrow T4 to LGW North terminal is 40.1 miles. “Heathwick”would therefore require a high speed link following roughly the M25 with a start-to-stop AVERAGE speed of 172mph – faster, I suspect that most TGVs, especially over such comparatively short distances.

    To ensure airside-airside means six trains (3 terminals at LHR – 2 terminals at LGW) in each direction every six minutes – which with 120 second headways would require a four-track TGV line. If you wanted to have airside trains serving more than one terminal, you then need to go faster still on the link to deal with dwell times at the other terminal stations (as well as dealing with those passengers who then get off at the wrong terminal.) I hope this example shows why “Heathwick” is unworkable – and LHR and LGW are comparatively close (certainly viz Bristol and MAN).

    Surely if virtual hubbing were such a good idea, don’t you think that it would have been tried somewhere else? New York (JFK and LGA) / Newark is the obvious comparative case study, and there is nothing of the sort going on.

  • Toby Fenwick 7th Oct '12 - 10:40am

    Tim – HS2 £32bn actually gets us the Y network, but I agree with your point that high speed rail links on anything like the scale Richard proposes would be far more expensive even then building Boris Island, which is rejected (rightly) on cost grounds.

    LeekLiberal – I don’t doubt your annoyance at having to schlep to London by train, car or connecting flight. But Birmingham or Manchester are simply too far from the preponderant passenger base – London and it’s hinterland – to be credible options. (This applies to Gaydon, too). It’s for this reason that I favour Tim’s Luton option, especially if tied into HS2 (via Milton Keynes and WCML), WCML, Midland Main Line (with the Derby – Manchester section reopened and electrified), ECML (at Stevenage) and the East-West link (at MK or Bedford). Thameslink already runs past the Luton site, ensuring good connectivity with points south of London.

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 10:57am

    Critiicising an idea on the grounds that it’s new isn’t a good way to make progress.

    Many connections do not require short gate-gate times, because that’s a recipe for short delays causing connections to be missed. Businesses also recognize that t’s best for people to arrive refreshed rather than exhausted. As well as the advantages I listed before, a Distributed Hub takes advantage of the opportunities that these facts provide.

    I often travel on the evening flight Barcelona->LHR, take the night bus to GTW, sleep at GTW, and take the morning BA flight to Trinidad. I used to sleep on GTW floor but my joints now ache and they put me in a hotel. It’s about a 12 hour connection and I arrive Trinidad without the 2-day jetlag that used to affect my business acumen on arrival after more hurried trips..

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 11:25am

    In other words, the Heathrow/Boris Island concepts rest on erroneous assumptions about the market. Speed is not the new God. And anyway the inernet provides speed. Performing well when you get there is where it’s at.

    Last time I went through Frankfurt there was a 2-hour snow delay. So the plane from Frankfurt arrived in Manchester just as the Manchester to Barbados flight that I was booked on was taking off. That was supposed to be a 30-minute cnnection. Instead, business was delayed a day, and I spent time experiencing Northern rain.

  • Stuart Mitchell 7th Oct '12 - 11:40am

    “I think Britain should have what every major city has: a four runway hub.”

    I thought of a major city at random – Beijing – and found that it does not have a four-runway airport. How are you defining “major city”?

  • Stuart: Beijing current has “only” 3 runways at its major airport – which is why they are currently building a replacement with more runways!
    Leek Liberal: It isn’t clear to me that people in Newcastle or Bristol would prefer an airport in Birmingham to London. As Toby says, there is only one place in the UK with a local market of 10 million+ people. Flights from there will always be more likely to be viable than flights from elsewhere in the UK, and that matters because the point of increasing capacity is about making more routes viable to support business.
    Richard: I doubt you will find strong support for your idea that transfer passengers should to fly into one airport, take a bus to another, spend the night on the airport floor, and then fly out again. But you can try to muster support for that approach if you like. Me, I just want to get where I am going, which means I prefer non-stop flights, and short connections when I have to connect. My ideal mode of transport would be Harry Potter’s Floo Powder!

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 2:01pm

    It isn’t useful to assume that one’s own preferences are what everyone else wants. Do Tim’s preferences constitute the totality of the marketing study for these proposals?

    Some people might indeed prefer an 18 hour journey with a couple of short connections, arriving too tired to do any business. Others want to arrive alert and able to make the right business choices. Some people might indeed just be going for short face-to-face meetings. Others may need to inspect manufacturing plant, query operatives to check adherence to quality or safety standards, compare two or three possibilities for a retail location, explore avenues that the local representatives are unaware of.

    All of these varied requirements represent business opportunities for the travel industry. Some entail hotel accommodations, which could be on train. Others don’t. All can be served by a Distributed Hub with high-speed connections for those who want fast gate-gate connections, and less frenetic motion for those who want to arrive compos mentis.

    The reality is that, if you 4 daily flights to Bergen, there’ll be a few hours between them, and if you’re coming on one of the four flights from Wuhan, there’ll be a few hours between those too. So even with 15-minute gate-gate travel, the Wuhan flight arrival times won’t sync with Bergen flight departure times, and you’ll end up waiting a few hours. That gives time for the train, especially if bags are put through for you and any passport checks are done on it.

    Any business proposal has to start with a marketing study. Where is the study for the new proposals, and has it really alerted potential future customers to ALL their options, and asked what they might prefer? And nowadays we do environmental and social impact studies too. The Distributed Hub may well win on these!

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 2:19pm

    I perhaps agree that “the point of increasing capacity is about making more routes viable to support business”. This seems to be subtly from the earlier claim that the point was about UK jobs. But anyway, the point of business is to support people.

    So, if people want a future in which business locations are distributed evenly around the country, and not over-crowding London and the SE, then the flights will need to go where people want the future businesses to be. That logic leads immediately to the Distributed Hub as a relevant option.

    And if there are enough people flying from Wuhan to Prague to make it worth while providing flights to Prague, then businesses will provide such flights. No size of Concentrated London Hub will change that.

  • Toby Fenwick 7th Oct '12 - 2:50pm

    Richard: I’m not criticising the distributed hub concept on the grounds that it is new – as it happens, it isn’t – but because it is completely unworkable.

    Let’s make the best possible case for a “distributed hub” by allowing with a minimum transfer time of 90 mins between flights – more than twice Frankfurt, and 150% of a notional ideal maximum of 60 mins.

    This 90 mins needs to breakdown as time to walk from gate to shuttle, shuttle transfer time, shuttle to gate time. Let’s assume that you need to be in the gate 15 mins prior to departure, and that the walk from the gate to the shuttle and shuttle to the gate is also 15 mins. This leaves a shuttle transfer time, inclusive of waiting, of 45 mins (90 – 45). The frequency of the shuttles is key – 10 an hour is one every six minutes (unlikely for a TGV style link) so let’s assume one every 10 minutes (still six an hour, which is a very intensive service – it’s one more train per hour than Euston – Birmingham in the 0745 – 0845 peak, and two more than Heathrow or Gatwick Expresses to London).

    This means that the maximum shuttle time is 35 mins (45 – 10). NB, for an ideal 60 min connection, the available shuttle transfer time is now 5 mins – exactly what Tim’s toast rack offers for most piers. (In practice over an on-airport connection, the frequency would be 3 – 4 mins getting a maximum shuttle time of 11 mins, which is more than enough).

    So taking you “distributed hub” idea at face value, let’s assume that the airports involved are LHR, MAN, STN, BHX and BRS (my post earlier this morning demonstrates why LHR / LGW doesn’t work). Distances in a straight line in nm from GCMapper (http://bit.ly/VA0sEs), and the required minimum average shuttle speed is in (brackets):

    LHR – MAN: 151 (259 mph)
    LHR – BRS: 98 (168 mph)
    LHR – STN*: 65 (111 mph)
    LHR – BHX: 87 (149 mph)
    MAN-BRS: 138 (237 mph)
    MAN-STN: 147 (252 mph)
    MAN-BHX: 66 (113 mph)
    STN – BHX: 93 (159 mph)
    STN – BRS: 132 (226 mph)
    BRS – BHX: 85 (146 mph)

    *I’ve treated LHR – STN as a special case as a straight line isn’t remotely practical unless you want to tunnel under London, and have used the road distance.

    Remember, this is the best case for a distributed hub – and allows a comparatively uncompetitive 90 min connection time. And all of the average (remember, this is start-to-stop) speeds are above 110 mph, ranging therefore from the TGV only to the practically impossible (259 mph). Recall too, that as an airside – airside connection, this is a many to many relationship with each terminal having to dispatch one train every ten minutes to EVERY OTHER terminal, not airport – so LHR is dispatching (1 to BRS, 1 to STN, 2 to MAN, 2 to BHX) x 3 terminals (ie, 18 TGVs) every 10 mins.

    And if this doesn’t demonstrate that the whole idea is completely unworkable, then I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I can sell you.

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 4:14pm

    Toby, Many thanks. I am happy that people have already been thinking about the Distrubuted Hub, and a little concerned that it seems to be news to Tim. I am also worried about the marketing survey. Has no-one done one? All these fancy gate-to-gate calculations go out the window for passengers who want to arrive alert at their destinations, see my previous comments.

    Posters at Barcelona airport seem to say it was built for 2 million passengers a day, or maybe a week, but I’ve never seen it anythng like crowded – their plan went out the windown with the recession. KL is a wonderful architectural extravaganza but is almost deserted when I pass through. I prefer the company to pay for my stay at the Gatwick hotel, rather than have a 24-hour heart-attack-risk flying nightmare followed by a 48-hour unproductive hangover.

  • Toby Fenwick 7th Oct '12 - 5:11pm

    Richard: Without wanting to speak for Tim, I’m pretty sure that he’s heard of the distributed hub concept, and as he says above, rejected it because it doesn’t work.

    I reject the distributed hub proposition for the reasons I outline above. If you were to gross up the amount of high speed rail infrastructure through some of our most expensive real estate to provide anything like a 90 min transfer time, it quickly becomes unaffordable. Let’s look at the costs of “Heathwick” and assume that:

    – it is technically possible to run a 40 mile link from LHR to LGW at the start to stop average speed required (172 mph / 275 kmh)

    – It can be built for the same per mile cost as the London-Birmingham HS2 link (two tracks = £145m / mile). As on a 10 trains / hr airside – airside connection this requires a four-track line, the cost is £290m / mile .

    Then the cost of the Heathwick proposal in simply building the rail link is £11.6bn, and that is making number of pretty heroic assumptions about the cost of carving through Surrey on a route that is straight enough to support the very high speeds you need to make the journey in 20 mins or so, to which you need to add the cost of a second runway at LGW as well.

    For a “Distributed Hub” encompassing LHR, STN, BHX, BRS and MAN, the network of high speed lines would be 1,060miles, but 2120 miles of four track. 2120 miles @ £145m / mile is £307.4 bn. This is ten times the cost of new Luton (probably £30bn), without any of the benefits of closing LHR, LTN and STN. And in any event, this network would be so congested with trains rushing between airports, it is far from clear that there would significant capacity for the non-airport traffic, meaning that locals aren’t likely to gain much (if any) benefit. So no, I don’t believe that the Distributed Hub is a credible plan.

    On what the market wants, all of the evidence that I’ve seen is that most people will want to get from A to B as quickly as possible, and where this unavoidably involves going via C, then the connections or modal shifts should be as quick and seamless as possible. If they want comfort and ability to work on arrival, then the consensus seems to be that you pay for Business or First, or arrive a day early and stay overnight.

    This is why the largest and most successful hubs – of which Atlanta Hartfield Jackson, which is what Tim has used as the basis of his analysis, is the best example – are designed to get you and your baggage from one flight to another as quickly as possible; the last thing that they want is people hanging about unnecessarily.

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 5:45pm


    Given your prejudgment against a Distributed Hub, I wonder whether the people surveyed were provided with all the options, described without bias? Did your survey also include the views of the population about the possible effects of different hub slutions on the geographical spread of industry?

    Business came first in the 19th century. Health was one of the casualties. Perhaps we need to re-start on the marketing side, giving the people a fairer picture of opportunities and consequences?

  • Stuart Mitchell 7th Oct '12 - 5:53pm

    Tim: I know that, but the fact is that Beijing does not have one now. I suspect a great many major cities don’t. I think this is one case where we should not be trying to keep up with the world leaders. Let them have their mega-airports.

  • Toby Fenwick 7th Oct '12 - 5:56pm


    I don’t have a prejudice against the “distributed hub”; having applied some relatively gentle stress tests, it simply doesn’t stack up. It is an extremely expensive method of trying to use regional airfields which are under-utilized because of their location and catchment area. You could equally have said why not Alconbury, Upper Heyford, Woodbridge/Bentwaters?

    But a new UK Hub – which by the contours of demand will need to be based in the south-east – is not an exercise in filling up empty or partially empty runways around the UK, it is about ensuring the UK has the best possible airport for our social, business and pleasure needs through the next 40 years. I think Tim deserves commendation for his clarity of thought and for coming up with three credible options.

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 6:19pm

    Toby, All your stress tests assume that the Concentrated Hub serving GoGoGo passengers is the only way forward. No wonder they come to that conclusion.

    For instance, a Distributed Hub together with a policy of de-centralizing industry will move demand out of the SE, thereby filling the regional airports with demand, and making your calculations irrelevant!

    For instance, the costs of a hotel overnight at GTW are affected by the high real-estate capital values and higher wages in London and the SE. Those costs might reduce if the place was less crowded.

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 6:28pm

    I agree that Tim should be congratulated on a nice report, Indeed, our discussion demonstrates the respect we share for him and his ideas and results. But I wonder. I am very cynical. One way to promote an unacceptable idea is to present the population with a choice between it and an even more unacceptale one.

    So let’s have a proper study of the Distrubuted Hub concept. Not pre-judged. Not assuming future industry will be in the same place as now. Not assuming speed is the only criterion, or that everyone wants to arrive exhausted. Not assuming there are no opportunities for hoteliers en route.

    Let’s succeed by satisfying our population as well as our businesses, and by differentiating our product from the muliple carbon-copy hub products that exist now or will appear in Europe!

  • Richard – the idea is discussed in the paper, albeit not by name, as Heathwick and in the context of Birmingham. No-one in the industry liked it. They say that it is not what customers want.
    Stuart – I am sure that there is another city somewhere without one, but when I went through the list of places they seemed few and far between, and those seemed to be looking to build one. I think my statement is a reasonable approximation to global best practice.

  • Richard Dean 7th Oct '12 - 7:03pm

    A problem with this exercise is that it seems to assume that future demand will simply be for a larger quantity of what is available today. Demands for quality can change too. What is wanted tomorrow need not be the same as today.

    What the customer wants tomorrow will depend on things like the geographical distribution of industry in the UK, and the opportunities and costs of services including such things as hotels. Government can help alter the distribution, and can encourage new services, so “what the customers want” can change and be changed.

    Also, of course it is not just industry and customers. We must also take account of what the population wants.

  • Old Codger Chris 8th Oct '12 - 1:08am

    Before we decide whether and how much extra capacity is needed, are there statistics to show –
    a) what percentage of passengers at Heathrow and Gatwick are using the airport as a hub?
    b) how important or otherwise are hub passengers to the UK economy as a whole (not just to airports)?
    c) what percentage of passengers using Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted are business passengers rather than holidaymakers? (I’m assuming that London City is mostly business, Luton mostly pleasure)
    d) what is the balance of holiday trade between incoming tourists benefitting our economy and Brits holidaying abroad and thus doing the opposite?

  • Just to say that I became a Civil Servant this morning, and can therefore no longer answer your questions! Sorry!

  • Richard Dean 8th Oct '12 - 8:16pm

    Tim, yes you can. A civil servant is free to answer questions on anything that pertains to life before the civil service. In your case that includes this airport proposal! 🙂

  • Richard Dean 8th Oct '12 - 8:17pm

    Congratulations, by the way, or should it be commiserations?

  • I thought there is a need for minimum grade separation between parallel runways to avoid impact of wake vortices.
    Does not seem safe without actual detail in regards to this.

  • jim mithell 19th Dec '13 - 4:08pm

    Interesting comments but i wonder why a distributed hub system has to have any HST element ?

    IF 4 or even 7 airpotrs LHR, LG, MAN, Birmingham Newcastle, Glasgow Edinburgh were used and if we required that an operator wanting a slot at one airport (On say Monday) must also take and operate into / out of the same time slot at the other 6 airorts at one / day for the rest of the week one.
    This surely creates a ‘rotating ‘ hub which spreads air traffic around the UK

    Those destinations which have several flights a day would be shared around – eg two flights to NY from each of the 7 airports in place of 12 or all 14 from heathrow.
    To accomodate the really low flight requirements for some route we could allow some trade off in the rotation to detinations with in the same local
    Purly as an example if Bergen from The UK only supported three flight a week, (one ech to Edinburgh, Manchester Heathrow) the other four slots could be to alternatives airports in Norway (or within 100Km of Bergen)

    All seven would effectively have international connections for the transit pass.

    The saving s in fuel and time from planes having to stack at busy airports , and the reduced need for UK personnel to make internal travel arrangements and the opening up of altenative locations times would allow travellers of all kinds to consider far more how and when they want to travel as well as where they want to go (for whatever reason)

    As a pure self observation – in the last two years I have had to travel using a connection flight either to LHR or to Schipol on 12 occasions to 5 destiantions – the cost of that connection to London meant – London lost out every time

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