July 13, 2008

Ambassador for Airports in a Rallying Cry for Runways

By Mark Leftly

A month into his high profile new job, a 57-year-old Yorkshireman is preparing to take on an old Etonian of 44 who is new to his own role.

Ed Anderson is the chairman of the Airport Operators Association. He has landed the job just as London Mayor Boris Johnson is denouncing plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

"It seems to me that if London is going to be a world-class city then it needs a world-class hub airport," says Mr Anderson. "Look at the airports Heathrow is competing with: Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt - they all have more runways."

He joined after 10 years running Leeds Bradford International Airport, so emphasises the needs of regional operators and not just the concerns of BAA, by far the biggest player in the sector. The lack of terminal capacity at Heathrow, he says, means that the regional airports do not have the landing slots at the hub that they require in order to develop.

"Our high-level aim is to try and create a climate that will allow aviation to grow, as that will bring significant benefits to the UK economy," Mr Anderson explains.

He has written to the Mayor calling for a meeting and expects this to be set up in the coming weeks. However, Mr Johnson is unlikely to budge; all the mayoral candidates signed an agreement ahead of the election that opposition to a third runway would be a central policy of their term of office. The candidates feared that another runway will add to carbon emissions, to which Mr Anderson counters that aviation accounts for only 2 per cent of these.

He does concede, however, that air transport is likely to be one of the fastest-growing areas of emissions.

Mr Anderson praises the European Union's recent approval for including aviation in the next Emissions Trading Scheme, which means the industry can buy credits that give a right to pollute. However, he is keen that this replaces rather than is added to government proposals for an aviation levy, because this could lead to a doubling of taxes: "They will fly once, pay tax twice," he sighs.

The other item on Mr Anderson's agenda is to support the Planning Bill. This seeks to speed up decisions on projects of national significance, so that the huge delays in the construction of the likes of Terminal Five can be avoided. "The assumptions behind T5 when it was originally proposed were overtaken by the passage of time. The danger is that the delays mean the projects are constantly behind the curve."

Mr Anderson declines to comment on the situation at BAA, which owns seven of the UK's biggest airports and holds a south of England monopoly owning Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted and Southampton. BAA is currently the subject of a Competition Commission investigation, which looks certain to recommend sellling of some, if not all, of its airports.

Mr Anderson, who represents 72 operators, says he is "neutral" on which company owns what airport. However, this break-up will be the big corporate news in the sector later this year and he admits that he is meeting BAA this month.

And while he might not have any issue with the identity of the company that runs Heathrow, it is certain that Mr Anderson will be fighting their corner when Mr Johnson invites him into City Hall.

(c) 2008 Independent on Sunday, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.