‘Poor rail links hold back airports’

YORKSHIRE’S airports could be held back by poor road and rail connections which deter business travellers, according to a new CBI report.

The report calls on the Government to make a commitment to create a single UK hub airport, with the capacity to support trade links with emerging economies.

The study, which is released today, also says that steps should be taken to make it easier to reach Britain’s regional airports.

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Mark Dittmer-Odell, the CBI’s head of infrastructure, said: “The UK’s regional, point-to-point, airports are a really important part of the country’s aviation capacity for businesses, providing direct links with our established trading partners, access to key aviation hubs for onward travel to the widest range of destinations, and in some cases, providing direct links to emerging markets.

“While we have runway capacity at many of these airports, their potential is being held back by poor ground transport connections, like rail and road, which deters business travel and reduces the catchment area, making new routes less viable. We want the Government to work with councils and LEPs (local enterprise partnerships) to prioritise improving access to the UK’s vital network of regional airports.”

In West Yorkshire, business and political leaders have been lobbying for a direct rail link to Leeds-Bradford Airport from neighbouring towns and cities to speed up its development.

The CBI report states that having a single UK hub airport with spare capacity to add new routes is “critical” to the UK’s long-term growth. The CBI is urging the Whitehall-commissioned Airports Commission to deliver recommendations that solve problems caused by the UK’s lack of runway capacity and improve connections with export markets.

The CBI report comes as the commission is poised to make a decision on whether or not to carry on including the so-called “Boris Island” Thames Estuary airport scheme in its considerations for airport expansion.

The estuary plan is being championed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Any move to ditch the estuary scheme would leave the commission with three shortlisted options for expansion - two alternative schemes at Heathrow and one at Gatwick.

The commission is due to present its final expansion recommendations to Parliament in summer 2015, after the General Election.

With the UK’s hub capacity at Heathrow already full, the UK is falling behind on direct flights to emerging markets, the CBI report states. The report says that, by drawing heavily on transfer passengers, the UK’s EU competitors are creating connections to new destinations within the emerging economies, such as Xiamen in China and Recife in Brazil, as well as links to the major markets of the future, like Peru, Indonesia, Taipei and Chile.

CBI deputy director-general Katja Hall said: “We need to see the Airports Commission deliver a strong case for new capacity and a clear schedule for delivery, and politicians to commit to spades in the ground by the end of the next Parliament.”