At a recent conference, Multimodal 2016, some of the country’s senior executives in business and leaders of national trade organisations came together to discuss what the future might hold for airports in terms of growth and modernisation. The event, which took place at the NEC in Birmingham earlier this month, dedicated a panel to “The Future of Airports in the UK” and attracted hot debate on topics including the proposed third runway at Heathrow.
The Multimodal 2016 panel was chaired by the Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) Julie Maddocks, Head of Media Relations. She was joined by a host of industry experts from some of the UK’s biggest businesses and very much had the task of directing conversation which was both ardent and lively.
The seminar opened with a talk led by FTA’s Head of Global Policy, Alex Veitch, who outlined the particular value of the air freight industry, highlighting that some 40% of all UK freight (by value) is delivered by air. In recognition of the increasing demand faced by airports, he expressed FTA’s support for plans to build a third runway at Heathrow, adding that night-time operations could be vital for the new runway’s success should it be approved by government.
Nick Platts, Head of Cargo at Heathrow Airport agreed, suggesting that a night-time regime for the additional runway would be crucial if it were to alleviate the pressure on Heathrow’s two existing runways. He was positive about the potential of the new runway to improve the UK’s overall exports market. Platts nevertheless conceded that Heathrow, as the UK biggest passenger hub, would always be at full capacity and thus wider scale investment would be needed in the future.
In the same vein of widening the focus of investment, Neil Robinson, Director of Sustainability for Manchester Airports Group pleaded the case of country’s northern powerhouse – stressing that, after Heathrow, Manchester Airport is the largest freight airport. He also backed the proposed runaway at Heathrow, though suggested that an extra runway for both passenger and freight travel was needed if the nation were really to keep up with the global marketplace.
With such a collection of top business leaders present, it was no surprise that the topic of Brexit also reared its head at Multimodal 2016; Larry Coyne, CEO of Coyne Airways said he was “worried about it”. Mark Onley, General Manager of Cargo for Europe, Middle East, India & Africa and Air Canada Cargo meanwhile expressed his frustration for the biased representation of Brexit by different political parties.