Aviation strategy report slips out unnoticed
When the government publishes a call for evidence on a Friday in July (2017) just before the summer recess, it should be no surprise that the update is published without fanfare on a Saturday morning, with virtually no-one noticing. So why the shyness?
'Beyond the horizon - The future of UK aviation' went online in the first few minutes of Saturday, 7th April 2018 when the government would have known that few politicians, let along the public, would have picked it up. Yet the forward tells us how important this document should be as "the Aviation Strategy will set out the long-term direction for aviation policy to 2050 and beyond".
Perhaps one reason that the report has been released without fanfare is that it shows that the timetable has slipped. Without doubt, there is more work to the done. The report says "bold action is needed" in some areas. So while the original timeline stated that an Aviation Strategy would be published at the end of 2018, this has been moved on to the first half of 2019. The process has also been simplified so that there is a single green paper published this autumn.
The green paper, it says, will be informed by "widespread engagement", which explains why many campaign groups, including SHE, have been invited to meet with Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg in April. It is uncertain whether all the groups will accept since there is widespread disillusionment with consultations and their true value to the people affected.
While the report is fairly dry, it does include some interesting information. For example, one graphic illustrates why putting all the investment into Heathrow is not a good deal for people living in the North. Direct flights, bypassing Heathrow, could mean places in the North gain from foreign visitors rather than the focus always being on London.
The report also mentions the allocation of slots at airports. One paragraph (5.16) mentions that it has been reported that an airline purchased a single slot pair at Heathrow for $75 million last year. The report questions whether the current slot regulations create barriers to competition.
SHE is sure that once politicians and the public fully understand the negative impacts of a third runway at Heathrow, the project won't get off the ground but the report ponders on the fact that if it were ever built it would need sufficient slots to accommodate at least an additional 260,000 air transport movements a year. That sounds like a another huge headache for everyone, from the people organising the slots to Air Traffic Control and the people suffering the noise.