Investment in better transport links to airports delivers billions to the economy and creates tens of thousands of jobs

With speculation mounting that infrastructure investment will be a central theme of the Government’s Autumn Statement on Wednesday, a report by the Airport Operators Association (AOA) released on Monday 21 November shows that the Government could create tens of thousands of jobs by reducing journey times to airports.

The AOA report, released on the first day of the AOA Annual Conference in London, details analysis by Capital Economics that shows that a 5% improvement in average journey times to and from airports could deliver a 2.7% increase in passenger numbers, generating an additional £1.9 billion for the UK economy and supporting an additional 32,000 jobs.

Chief Executive of the AOA, Darren Caplan said:

“Today’s report by the Airport Operators Association shows that making it easier for more people to travel to and from airports will enable aviation to deliver more for the UK economy, creating tens of thousands of jobs in the process.

“Investing in better transport infrastructure around airports improves the passenger experience and enables the UK to show that it is open for business and keen to welcome visitors, making it easier for them to reach their final destinations.

“The report also clearly shows that improvements to transport links significantly boost the catchment areas of airports. By enabling more passengers to travel to an airport, this investment attracts a greater number of airlines, in turn offering more destinations and at higher frequencies. This ultimately benefits consumers and businesses.

“Improving access to airports is a no-brainer for passengers and more widely for UK plc so we urge the Government to act to facilitate that better access.”

Aviation is one of the UK’s success stories, creating £1bn a week for the UK economy and supporting around one million jobs. Airports contribute to economic growth in many ways, including through forging domestic and international connections that support economic activity that would otherwise not occur.

Aviation is the infrastructure that enables other industries to do well, for example, bringing visitors to local tourism businesses, facilitating international trade and attracting foreign investment. Today, 40% of the UK’s trade by value goes by air and aviation brings nearly 75% of tourism visitors to the UK.

That is why airport development and surface access should not be viewed in isolation. A more efficient and more integrated, sustainable transport strategy can spread the economic and social benefits of improved connectivity via an airport to a wider area.

That is why the AOA is calling on the Government to invest in transport links to airports. The Government’s planned ‘Aviation Strategy’ should:

  • Assess the level of transport infrastructure connecting UK airports and identify where there are gaps in present and future demand;
  • Ensure rail capacity assessments and Highways Agency route studies include airport access, looking particularly at whether road and rail capacity at individual airports matches Government’s passenger growth forecasts for that airport; and
  • Set out, with Network Rail and the Highways Agency, how it will make decisions as to which surface access projects at airports will be prioritised in the Government’s infrastructure plans.

Darren Caplan added:

“With record demand for air travel, improved transport options to airports are crucial to meet passenger expectations.

“The Government needs to make clear that linking air connectivity with surface transport connectivity is crucial for the success of the UK economy. It can do this through better assessing the level of transport infrastructure connecting UK airports, identifying where there are gaps in present and future demand.

“The Government then needs to work with Network Rail, the Highways Agency and local government to prioritise improvement projects at airports in future investment plans to deliver the much-needed improvements.”

Notes to Editors:

  1. The full agenda of the AOA Annual Conference, which is being held on 21-22 November at the Hilton Metropole Hotel in London, can be found here.
  2. The success of UK aviation is reflected in passenger numbers: in 2015, more than 251 million passengers flew from airports in the UK, the highest number ever recorded and 17m more than the Government’s most optimistic growth scenarios from 2013. This makes the UK the largest aviation market in Europe.