| CAMPAIGN UPDATE - AT A GLANCE
A summary of current events in SSE's campaign against expansion of Stansted Airport
and other recent news related to the expansion of airports and aviation - as at 9 December 2013
SSE loses bias case but Commission criticised
Stop Stansted Expansion was unsuccessful in its attempt through a High Court challenge to force the Airports Commission to re-determine its criteria for selecting sites for possible airport expansion. In a ruling on December 2, High Court Judge Mrs Justice Patterson ruled that no previous harm, in terms of bias, could have been done by Geoff Muirhead, a member of the Commission, before he resigned in September after the threat of a legal challenge by SSE. Mr Muirhead retired as chief executive of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which owns Stansted Airport, in September 2010 but was immediately appointed as an 'ambassador' to MAG for which he was paid £150,000 a year, a role he performed even after he joined the Airports Commission. SSE argued that Mr Muirhead's involvement in determining the selection criteria may have skewed them in favour of expansion at Stansted.
While ruling that it was right for Mr Muirhead to step down, the judge said that neither the actions of Mr Muirhead in remaining a commissioner until September 2013, nor those of the commission in retaining him until then, could be regarded "as the most wise". The judge was also critical of the commission for not being more transparent about Mr Muirhead's ongoing consultancy arrangements. SSE said it needs time to consider the judge's ruling and to discuss with its legal advisors whether there are aspects of the judgment that need to be taken to the Court of Appeal.
Further background can be found here.
SSE welcomes call for independent noise watchdog
Stop Stansted Expansion has welcomed the call by London First for an independent noise ombudsman to protect people living near airports and under flight paths from aircraft noise. London First, which represents many of the UK's leading businesses, suggests that a new independent noise ombudsman should have a range of powers including the ability to fine airlines that break noise limits. It believes this would help address the lack of trust and transparency between those pressing for airport expansion and local communities. SSE has been calling for an independent noise watchdog since 2006 and has repeatedly pressed the Department for Transport, the CAA and MPs, to introduce independent oversight of aircraft noise and the other environmental impacts of airports on local communities. See the SSE press release.
Airport's noise measures challenged
Claims that Stansted Airport adequately monitors noise levels have been challenged by Martin Peachey, SSE's noise expert. The airport says it is "at the forefront of pro-actively monitoring and working with our airlines, National Air Traffic Services, the Civil Aviation Authority and Government to tackle noise issues, regularly going beyond the requirements and best practice". It claims it has reduced noise complaints from 19,000 in 2005 to 750 in 2012 and reduced the number of people affected by noise from 7,600 in 1998 to 1,250 in 2012. Mr Peachey points out that the airport only monitors noise at two sites very close to the runway, in Great Hallingbury and Broxted, and only for departing aircraft. Mobile monitors are used at one or two locations for a three month period when requested by local councils. In 2012, only five aircraft infringed noise limits at the two main monitors yet there were 750 noise complaints. "Hardly an adequate measure of noise annoyance" says Martin Peachey. See the EADT report.
Stansted wants to copy two-runway Manchester
Stansted should be developed along the lines of Manchester, the only UK airport other than Heathrow with two runways, says Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the owners of Stansted. Mr Cornish told the Financial Times: "You have to be realistic, Stansted is never going to replace Heathrow as the centre point for long-haul flights, but it's got a great opportunity to evolve more like Manchester." Mr Cornish admitted that a four-runway hub at Stansted - one of the options submitted to the Airports Commission - would only work in the unlikely event that Heathrow closed. Instead, he was fixing his sights on a two-runway airport with more long-haul flights to the Middle East and China. At Stansted the goal was to reverse the decline of the past few years by increasing passenger numbers from 17.5m to 24m within five years. Stansted had agreed deals with Ryanair and easyJet to bring in more travellers in exchange for lower airport charges. With London's population increasing to the east and with fewer people affected by noise at Stansted compared with Heathrow and Gatwick, it would be difficult for Stansted not to be on the Airport Commission's shortlist, he said. See the Financial Times report.
Gatwick boss says UK only needs one more runway
Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport and former MD of Stansted, says that demand justifies only one additional runway in the UK up to 2040. That is one issue on which he is in agreement with Heathrow. He argues that the Airports Commission, which will shortly set out its shortlist of possible sites, should choose Gatwick over Heathrow where the impact of noise would be greater. It would be "too politically toxic" to choose Heathrow. To support his argument, he says 85 per cent of UK flights are to North America, Europe and the Middle East. Demand for long haul flights to other destinations can be met by Gatwick and Heathrow. However, claims Stewart Wingate, unlike Heathrow, Gatwick can service both low cost and full service airlines including low cost long haul carriers using Boeing 787 Dreamliners, so-called "hub-busters". Heathrow is already unaffordable for low cost carriers, he said, adding: "Its expensive expansion could strangle these airlines' future growth - damaging the fastest-growing and most transformational segment of the aviation market." See the City A.M. report.
Not even one runway, says SSE
Commenting on Mr Wingate's FT article, Brian Ross, SSE's economics adviser says: "We say that not even one new runway is needed but it's good to have confirmation that the gap between the 'pros' and the 'antis' is much narrower than most people think. We've made this very point several times to Sir Howard Davies' Airports Commission." See campaign groups' joint letter here.
Ryanair aims for 18m passengers by 2018...
Ryanair, which already accounts for 76% of all Stansted's passengers, plans to increase its passenger traffic at Stansted Airport from just over 13m a year to more than 18m by 2018 and to nearly 21m by 2023. Under a new deal agreed with MAG two months ago, Ryanair will fly 12 new routes out of Stansted next summer and increase services to 17 other destinations served from the airport. With increased frequency on other routes, Ryanair will offer an additional 1.3 million seats next summer, taking its capacity at Stansted to 14.5m passengers. See the Saffron Walden Reporter report.
...but issues second profits warning
Meanwhile, Ryanair warned (November 4) that its profits this winter will be affected by downward pressure on fares. It expects a 9 per cent drop in average fares for the current quarter and a possible decline of 10 per cent in the three months after Christmas. In its second profits warning in as many months, Ryanair said its surplus for the year to March 31 may dip to as low as €500m (£423.3m), from the €569m achieved a year earlier, reports the East Anglia Daily Times. For six months to September 30, the period when airlines make most of their money, Ryanair recorded profits growth of just 1 per cent to €602m (£509.7m). Average fares fell by 2% in the half year, although revenues from areas such as the roll out of reserved seating, priority boarding and higher credit debit card fees grew by 22% to €713m.
Allocated seats and more hand luggage
Ryanair passengers at Stansted will now be allowed to a second piece of hand luggage. The new rule will allow passengers to buy tax free goods knowing they have a greater capacity to carry goods on board. All other airlines at Stansted already allow a second bag in the cabin. See the Herts & Essex Observer report. The airline also announced it will move to fully allocated seating on all Ryanair flights from February. Passengers who do not pay €5 (£4.23) to select their seats will be allocated them during the 24 hours prior to the date of departure. It said the policy was in response to customer feedback.
Stansted could generate 8,000 extra jobs, claims academic report
A report by Oxford Economics says that Stansted Airport's current operation, serving 17.5 million passengers per annum (mppa), generates £750 million gross value added (GVA) and supports 14,000 jobs. Looking at the economic benefits of four scenarios for expansion at Stansted, it found that the best use of the existing airport infrastructure, at 35 mppa, would generate £2.2bn and support an additional 3,800 jobs. Maximum use of the existing airport infrastructure, at 45 mppa, would generate £2.7bn and support an additional 8,300 jobs. The report was commissioned by the London Stansted Cambridge Consortium, an organisation which is part funded by Stansted Airport. See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
Passengers up, flights down year-on-year
Stansted's passenger traffic rose 1.7% and flights were up 1.2% in October compared to the same month last year. A total of 17.7 million passengers used the airport in the 12 months to October 2013, up 2.0% on the previous 12 months. The number of flights in the same period was 130,003 - under half the permitted 264,000 - down 1.1% on the previous 12 months. The airport's passengers throughput is still 26.4% below its 2007 peak.
"Brittania Airport" unveiled
Designs for London Britannia Airport, the proposed six-runway airport formerly known as Boris Island, have been unveiled. The consortium behind the scheme, which would cost £47bn, claims it could be built within seven years. They also claim that their scheme would avoid demolition of houses, loss of green field sites, bird strikes, acquisition of private land and demolition of industrial infrastructure. Opportunities for housing, employment and the economy were huge but Heathrow would probably have to close. It says that the £47bn cost would be recouped from the real estate value and closure of Heathrow. There could be a new London borough in the Heathrow area with 300,000 new houses and 200,000 new jobs, along with economic regeneration of east London, Kent and Essex. Check-in terminals would be linked to the airport by high speed rail tunnels and the estuary airport would be "car free with no private car access". See the BBC News report.
Airport expansion is "incompatible with climate targets"
Stop Stansted Expansion's views on airport expansion in the UK have been backed by eight leading environmental organisations who have written an open letter to Sir Howard Davies, Chairman of the Airports Commission, to express their concern about the commission's "emerging thinking" that more runway capacity is needed for the south east, as expressed in Sir Howard's speech on 7th October. They have serious concerns about how adding a new runway could be compatible with UK climate targets, and they call on the Commission to demonstrate how its recommendations will avoid gambling on our future ability to meet the UK climate target. They also urge the commission to retain a "no new runways" option in its deliberations as the best way of achieving the targets set in the UK Climate Change Act. The eight green NGOs who have signed the letter are: Aviation Environment Federation,
Campaign for Better Transport, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, RSPB, Stop Climate Chaos, The Woodland Trust, and WWF-UK. See the Airport Watch report.
Virgin's CO2 claims questioned
Virgin Atlantic has claimed that travelling by air is greener than travelling by car. In its 2013 sustainability programme update, the airline says that last year its CO2 emissions per passenger kilometre (PK) fell to 119.3g. The UK the average new car emissions were 133.1gCO2/km in 2012. The airline said the fall in UK emissions is due to carrying "more passengers at higher load factors". Virgin also confirmed that it continues to cut its overall carbon footprint - 80 per cent of which comes from flying. Huge investment in new, more efficient aircraft has cut CO2 by 30 per cent in some cases, it said. Environmental groups have questioned whether Virgin is focusing on the wrong impacts, with more people flying than ever before. The company's carbon footprint, though reduced by 6 per cent since 2007, still stands at 5.9m tonnes. WWF-UK head of business, Dax Lovegrove, told edie.net that Virgin Atlantic and other airlines should "focus less on per passenger and per kilometre CO2 efficiencies and more on managing the overall carbon footprint from the general rise in passengers travelling over great distances".
Noise levels measured
A company based at Stansted Airport, Noise Communication Solutions, has been working with Virgin Atlantic as it pledges to cut aircraft noise. Virgin is the first airline to produce a peer-reviewed strategy as part of efforts to cut its noise energy per flight by 75 per cent by 2020. It has reduced its noise energy per aircraft by two thirds since its launch in 1984. See the Herts & Essex Observer report.
Minister praises regional airports
Listing the recent investment in airports including Birmingham, Manchester and Stansted, Aviation minister Robert Goodwill told an aviation conference, "All these good news stories do not, however, provide the hub capacity we need to grow." Goodwill said that the government's main message was that "aviation needs to grow, to support economic expansion, whilst giving due respect to the wider environment and the quality of life of those on the ground". The minister praised regional airports for playing an increasingly important role in contributing to the UK's economy. "In fact, describing them as regional rather sells them short - most are thriving local international airports in their own right," said Goodwill, citing investment being made at Edinburgh, Stansted, Birmingham, Manchester, Southend, East Midlands and Bristol. See The Guardian report. and the Travel Weekly report.
Still hungry for news or further comment on the stories above?
See our Media Centre or Recent News sections
Want to keep in touch?
For regular campaign news, become a member (minimum £10 donation) or sign up (free) as an online supporter, see our What You Can Do page