Government is failing on airport access, MPs say


Senior MPs have heavily criticised the Government’s approach to airports' transport access, highlighting that many have been left ‘completely disconnected from major road and rail infrastructure’.

The cross-party Transport Select Committee, told ministers to draw up plans, which could be integrated with national and local stakeholders’ aims, to improve surface transport access to airports and boost modal shift towards more sustainable methods of travel, particularly rail.


Of the 21 UK airports that saw more than one million passenger journeys in 2014 only nine have direct rail connections, MPs on the Committee said.

‘The absence of a decision on airport expansion in the South East is a major obstruction to progress, and without a master plan for the country, the regions cannot be expected to deliver effectively their own pieces of the jigsaw,’ MPs said.

The Government was also told to consider institutional and governance changes ‘to ensure that airport operators are working towards ambitious and realistic targets [for access and modal shift] and are held to account for their delivery’.

On key issues such as smart ticketing to ease public transport trips to airports, the MPs found that ‘it is difficult to see where any ultimate decision-making power lies and how funding streams will be accessed’.

The Government’s Aviation Policy Framework states airports should produce Airport Surface Access Strategies (ASAS) and combine them into published master plans ‘to ensure a joined-up approach’ with local and national stakeholders.

Although the Government looks at data from airports it does not have a role in monitoring or enforcing the appropriateness or effectiveness of airports’ plans.

The committee said this is ‘akin to letting airports set and mark their homework themselves’ adding that ‘the current system where airports set their own targets and assess their own performance is unlikely to deliver all of the Government’s objectives’ of better access.

Hounslow LBC said Airport Transport Forums, which deliver ASASs, should have ‘improved governance linked to binding targets around modal shift and actual sanctions if these are not met’.

MPs also criticised ministers’ approach to planning, after transport minister Robert Goodwill gave evidence that there was no place for government ‘dictating from above’ when it came to integrated transport access.

Data from the CAA shows the modes of transport used by arriving and departing passengers in the UK:

Figures from the Civil Aviation Authority; table from select committee report

In the predominantly privately-owned airport sector, the ‘market will deliver what customers want’, Mr Goodwill said, as the government admitted that it had not made an assessment of access to regional airports.

‘It is for regional airports to work with their local authorities, local bus and rail companies and Local Enterprise Partnerships to identify opportunities to promote access to airports,’ the Government’s Aviation Policy Framework states.

MPs on the committee gave this short shrift stating: ‘The fact remains that, under this model, some airports remain completely disconnected from major road and rail infrastructure.’

Ministers were also criticised for not doing their own homework: ‘Under the Planning Act 2008, as amended by the Localism Act 2011, the secretary of state is empowered to publish a National Policy Statement (NPS) on airports setting out his assessment of the need for nationally significant infrastructure projects on the rail and road networks.’

As yet no NPs for airports exists, although secretary of state Patrick McLoughlin told Parliament: ‘The mechanism for delivering planning consents for airport expansion will be an airports NPS, following which a scheme promoter would need to apply for a development consent order.’

In general the department was told it needed to work closely with Network Rail and Highways England, as well as local authorities, to ensure a more joined up approach to airport access.

On devolution, MPs said the Government should review the benefits of the bespoke deals under negotiation and hand bodies such as Transport for the North ‘adequate powers to ensure integrated transport planning’.

In terms of modal shift towards more sustainable transport, minister Robert Goodwill agreed that daily trips by airport staff were ‘low hanging fruit’.

Heathrow was highlighted as having reduced staff’s private vehicle share below 60%, in part through ‘to subsidised costs of public transport and encouragement to walk and cycle’.

Richard Burden, Labour's shadow aviation minister  said: 'This is a call to the Government to pull its finger out on road and rail access to airports. Ministers should now end damaging uncertainty over whether there will be an HS2 station at Manchester Airport, upgrade rail links to Stansted and require the National Infrastructure Commission to study the surface transport needs of airports outside the South East.'


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