CBI: Airports need ‘licence to grow’

The UK risks missing out on billions of pounds in trade unless it boosts direct flights to the fastest growing world economies, according to the CBI.

A report published today by the business group argues that adding one additional daily flight to each of the eight largest high-growth markets would increase UK trade by £1bn a year, with every increase in 1,000 passengers generating up to £920,000 in new business.

In the report, Trading Places, the CBI warns the UK is failing to keep pace with major European competitors in winning new direct connections to Brazil, Russia and China, hitting long-term export potential, damaging competitiveness and deterring inward investment.

The CBI is calling on the interim report of the International Airports Commission led by Sir Howard Davies to support the aviation network by proposing urgent investment in the poor road and rail links to the UK's international airports, as well as taking action on hub capacity.

The interim report of the Davies Commission reports later this year and the full report is due in 2015.

Rhian Kelly, CBI director for business environment policy, said: "The Davies Commission must be bold and set out a clear path forward. It needs to provide all of our airports with a sustainable licence to grow, with the ability to link exporters with new opportunities. This means tackling the growth pinch-points in the air and on the ground.

"Without convincing plans on aviation capacity, we risk wasting time circling, while our competitors cruise ahead."

The CBI is calling for improvements in surface access to UK airports, maximising efficiency for passengers and freight and boosting the catchment area of the UK's international airports.

The CBI supports the planned increase to public transport access to UK airports from 40% to 60% by 2030, supported by new rail links to improve access to key airports such as links to Manchester through a new Northern Hub.

The organisation also calls for expansion of capacity in the South East, including a new airport for London, to meet long-term demand for passenger and freight and support trade growth with new emerging markets.

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