Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Virgin criticised by environmental groups for introducing Heathrow to Manchester flights

As Virgin apply for a judicial review against their loss of the West Coast rail franchise, environmental groups unanimously criticised the company's green credentials last week for launching a new Manchester to London air route.

From Business Green,  21 Aug 2012

Virgin Atlantic’s plans to start commercial flights from London to Manchester have today been sharply criticised by green groups who claim the service will push up emissions.

The airline announced its first foray into domestic services this morning, just days after Virgin Trains lost out on its valuable West Coast rail franchise to First Group.

The company said it plans to offer three daily return flights between Heathrow and Manchester from March 2013, while flights from the capital to Edinburgh and Aberdeen could also be up and running by the summer.

However, green campaigners said such short flights are hugely fuel inefficient, given most fuel is burnt during the frequent take-offs and landings on short shuttle flights.

They also questioned how the service squares with Richard Branson’s stated aim to make Virgin the world’s most sustainable airline by 2020, and argued that the new service called into question the case for expansion at Heathrow.

A spokeswoman for the Green Party told BusinessGreen that replacing the almost 100,000 annual flights to destinations such as Edinburgh, Manchester, and Paris with rail journeys would not only reduce emissions but also free up capacity at Heathrow for new connections to emerging markets, removing the need for a new hub airport or expanded capacity.  “We are very disappointed Richard Branson doesn’t understand flying inter-city within the same country doesn’t do anything to help [reduce] CO2 emissions,” she said. “We should be reducing short-haul flights not encouraging people to take more.”

Jean Leston, senior transport policy officer at WWF UK, added: “Virgin’s new route to Manchester shows yet again how the airlines are creating a rod for their own backs by adding new domestic routes that clog up capacity that’s better used for new long haul routes… [and] not adding carbon needlessly to our skies.”

Meanwhile, Jane Thomas, a senior campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said the proposed £32bn high-speed rail link to Birmingham, Manchester and the North, known as HS2, would make internal flights redundant.  “Encouraging people to use trains is environmentally sensible and it also makes good sense when you have good existing networks,” she toldBusinessGreen. “HS2 would increase connectivity further and negate any case for short haul flights.”

Her thoughts were echoed by Richard Hebditch, campaign director at the Campaign for Better Transport.  “We should be making sure that rail is the mode of choice for all journeys between Manchester and London, not contemplating more flights for such a short distance,” he said. “Whoever runs the west coast mainline, travelling by rail has to make more sense.”

Click here for the rest of the story.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Government consultation on new Aviation Policy Framework

In July 2012, the government launched its consultation on the draft Aviation Policy Framework.  This is intended to replace the 2003 Air Transport White Paper.

Its second paper, asking for evidence on whether more airport capacity, particularly hub capacity, is needed in London and the South East has been postponed until the Autumn.

AirportWatch have posted the following initial response: 

"The consultation is still a document which envisages a lot of growth in air travel.  Whether that level of growth is compatible with climate change and noise concerns is highly debatable. But the consultation document is more honest than we have seen from previous governments.  It recognises that there is a tourism deficit, due to air travel, and that the UK is already about the best connected country in the world, contrary to the aviation industry’s spin.  It also recognises that landing slots need to be sorted out, as they are a major hindrance to efficient use of airport capacity. However, the document is weak on climate."

For an initial assessment on the draft Framework in terms of climate, noise and other issues see John Stewart's comment on the AirportWatch website.  

The deadline for responses to this consultation is 31 October 2012.  Response forms are available on the Department for Transport (DfT) website.  

The following quotes are taken from the draft Aviation Policy Framework:

On aviation and the Climate Change Act.....
"3.20 The Climate Change Act (2008) commits the UK to reducing its net GHG emissions by at least 80 per cent below the 1990 baseline by 2050 (the target), and requires the Government to set five-yearly carbon budgets, establishing a path towards meeting that target.   Emissions from international aviation (and shipping) are currently not included in the Act's definition of "emissions" and therefore do not form part of the target. However, the Government is required to set out the circumstances and extent to which emissions from international aviation should be included before the end of 2012, or explain to Parliament why it has not done so."

"3.21 In April 2012, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) published its advice to the Government that the UK's national carbon budgets and targets should include aviation (and shipping) emissions. Given the practical complexities, the Government is carefully analysing the evidence and options presented. The Government intends to make clear its position later this year."

On possible plans to link High Speed 2 to Manchester Airport......
"2.92 HS2 Ltd has also now submitted to the Government detailed route options for a spur from the main HS2 line to serve Heathrow Airport. This would provide improved links from the Midlands and the North, and enable HS2 passengers to travel directly to Heathrow without having to change trains. HS2 Ltd is also assessing the options and case for serving Manchester airport by high speed rail."

"2.93 The Government will publish its initial preferred route and station options for Phase 2 in autumn 2012, and launch a consultation in 2013/14."

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Manchester Airport unveils plans to concrete former greenbelt land with 'World Logistics Hub'

Manchester Airport has announced plans to concrete over former greenbelt land around Sunbank Lane to make way for a 'World Logistics Hub'.  The area is currently home to residential houses and greenfields and also borders onto Cotterill Clough - a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Proposals to build on former greenbelt land
The plans involve the construction of around 43 warehouses and office units of various sizes on land adjacent to the A538, as well as 1,473 carparking spaces, 134 bike parking spaces and a re-landscaped green zone.   The plans form part of the wider Airport City Enterprise Zone.  More details can be found here:

The Airport 'anticipate' that 1800 jobs will be created over a 15 year period.  However, a report on the wider Airport City proposals in Autumn 2011 by the Campaign to Protect Rural England found that many of these job creation projections actually involved displacing pre-existing jobs from elsewhere in Manchester, as firms relocate to take advantage of the cheap business rates on offer.

The land around Sunbank Lane was recently taken out of the Greenbelt in Manchester City Council's 'Core Strategy' which was approved in July 2012.  Many residents say they were not informed or consulted of these plans.  Audrey O'Donovan said,  "As a resident and chairman of Ringway Parish Council I am appalled at the lack of consultation by Manchester Airport when removing Oak Farm and surrounding area out of the green belt and changing the planning status enabling them to once again encroach on our countryside. All in the name of so called progress. What concerns me is the World Logistics Hub as they have called this latest expansion will expand to the other side of the A538 spreading their operations still further into our very small Parish of Ringway."

Plans for a World Logistics Hub to the south west of Manchester Airport

The Airport have published an 'informal' consultation document with images of the plans.   They say they intend to submit a formal planning application to Manchester City Council at some point in August 2012.  Objectors will have 21 days of formal consultation period to submit their views upon registration of the application.
A view of the area as it is now
Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport organised a 'Biodiversity Walk' around the affected site in May 2010.  Shortly after local activists blockaded the current World Freight Centre and staged an airside protest around the wheel of Monarch Airline jet against plans to expand the airport and demolish local homes.