Commons Gate

Passengers' Experience of Air Travel (HC 435-iii)

Transport Committee 9 May 2006

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Evidence given by Airport Operators' Association (AOA) - Mr Robert Siddall, Chief Executive, Ian Hutcheson, AOA Security Committee Chairman, and BAA Director of Security; Mr Terry Morgan, Divisional Director for South East Airports; Manchester Airports Group (MAG) Mr Geoff Muirhead CBE, Group Chief Executive: Transport for London - Dick Hallé, Director of Strategy, Surface Transport, Richard de Cani, Head of Development & Planning, Docklands Light Railway, Edward O'Loughlin, Network Planning Manager, London Rail, National Express Ltd - Mr Mike Lambden, Head of Corporate Affairs, Mr Ian McInnes, Strategy and Planning Director: Disabled Persons' Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), Mrs Ann Bates, Deputy Chair.

Q520 Mr. David Clelland: We hear a lot today about carbon emissions from aircraft but how much of the carbon emissions at airports are due to vehicular access and vehicular movement in and around the airports?

Mr Muirhead: We have carried out a carbon audit at Manchester, and the breakdown of emissions is as follows: buildings and such, 20% of emissions; aircraft, 20% of emissions; cars and ground access, 60% of emissions.

Q521 Mr. David Clelland: Quite a high proportion. So what are you doing to encourage public transport access to the airports?

Mr Muirhead: Again, we are looking at this from two perspectives: one from the passenger perspective and one from the staff perspective. From a staff perspective we are looking at the provision of 24-hour bus services from conurbations to feed into airports, and that is something we have been supporting financially to see those services start, so that gives accessibility to the job and an alternative to the car. We do have to look at car-sharing schemes and other means of reducing dependence on cars for staff. As far as passengers are concerned, perversely, perhaps, but actually to benefit people who come by car should park at the airport rather than be dropped off because that halves the number of journeys that people take to and from the airport by car. Other than that, we have invested in a ground transport interchange at Manchester - about £60 million - which will facilitate, hopefully, light rapid transit if that comes to Manchester, which it is supposed to, but heavy rail will go in there as well as the bus and coach stations. So that has provided a central core of public transport access for passengers.


Q524 Mr. David Clelland: How much success are you having in your efforts to encourage staff to use public transport and car-sharing?

Mr Muirhead: We have set some targets at Manchester. We started off about 10 years ago down this track. When we started off we were getting about 8% of people coming to the airport by public transport. We have set a target of 25% and we are now at about 21/22%. Our master plan, which is about to be published, will set a further benchmark looking towards the 40% level.

Q525 Mr. David Clelland: Does BAA have any comment on that?

Mr Morgan: I think this is one of the success stories, particularly at some of the south east airports. Currently, Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted, individually, have the highest share of passengers arriving and departing by public transport than most airports in Europe. Stansted is at about 40% at the moment, coming to and from the airport by public transport, Gatwick is about 36% and I think Heathrow is about 37% - so very high levels of public transport usage. Similar sorts of initiatives to Manchester: we encourage staff to car-share; we have work travel plans. One of the biggest growth areas in public transport is fast coach services to and from London. Five years ago Stansted's share of public transport by coach was 4%; it is now 14% of passengers. So lots and lots of work is being done with public transport providers to encourage public transport, and I think it is moving in the right direction.

Q526 Mr. David Clelland: Do you do any work at encouraging companies who use vehicles around the airport to use more environmentally friendly fuels?

Mr Morgan: Yes, we do. We do audits of emissions on a regular basis, both air-side and land-side, and we also try, as I say, to encourage companies, through their own travel planning, to make sure that their own staff are coming to and from the airport, if they can, by public transport.

Q527 Mr. David Clelland: The Independent Airport Park and Ride Association seem to think that you are restricting independent park and ride operators from competing fairly with your own on-site parking facilities. Is that correct?

Mr Muirhead: Not that I am aware of.

Mr Morgan: No. I think, certainly ----

Q528 Mr. David Clelland: Why would they think that then? That is what they have said to us.

Mr Muirhead: I do not know the basis of that observation, so I cannot really answer it.

Q529 Mr. David Clelland: Are you taking steps to promote park and ride to airport customers, for instance?

Mr Muirhead: I think there is a whole range of initiatives. If we are to achieve the 40% target which we have set that will certainly form part of the menu.

Q530 Mr. David Clelland: You said earlier, in reply to Mr Martlew, that car parking charges at airports are competitive. How much money do you make from on-site car parking? What proportion of your revenue is that?

Mr Morgan: For BAA I think it is, from memory, about of 15% total revenue. It is quite a big sum of money.

Q531 Mr. David Clelland: It is. Is that similar at Manchester?

Mr Muirhead: I can let you have that information. I do not know it offhand.

Q532 Mr. David Clelland: How do you decide on the cost of parking charges?

Mr Muirhead: We would decide on the competitive marketplace.

Q533 Mr. David Clelland: You would look at what was being charged elsewhere and compare ----

Mr Muirhead: And would compete effectively with that, yes. I think at Manchester on a long stay we have about 30% of the market.


Q548 Mr. David Clelland: A question to Mr Siddall, I think. Is it your understanding that Transport Innovation Fund money will be made available to improve access to airports?

Mr Siddall: The Transport Innovation Fund is something we have followed with interest. We understand that the first round of funding money went principally to schemes that were prepared to look at road pricing, so they were principally on roads. We will be very interested in the second round, which we hope very much will take account of the recommendations of the Eddington Transport Study. However, beyond that we have no detail.

Q549 Mr. David Clelland: The Department has not given any indication that money will be set aside for improving access to airports?

Mr Siddall: Not specifically as yet, as I understand.

Q550 Mr. David Clelland: Do you think there should be, though?

Mr Siddall: We would hope that funding would be made available for better access to airports and we would like it to take account of the Eddington study's recommendation.

Q551 Mr. David Clelland: Should rail links be included in that?

Mr Siddall: We would hope so.


Q640 Mr. David Clelland: What percentage of all coach journeys to and from airports does National Express operate?

Mr Lambden: In total it is somewhere under 50 per cent. It varies from airport to airport. We have a strong presence in some airports and a very small one in others. There is a lot of competition particularly at Stansted, as Mr Morgan referred to earlier on, but that is a very buoyant market, the coach market, and we are one of four operators operating in and out of there.

Q641 Mr. David Clelland: In your evidence you say that providing a 24/7 service is critical in terms of funding and cross subsidy of routes. Can you say something more to the Committee about that? Can you explain how that works?

Mr Lambden: It is essential to have a service that meets the needs of the public for getting to the airport. First and foremost, we must provide what our customers want and what people going to the airport want. A lot of flight times require early check-ins. You need to be at the airport for five o'clock in the morning so you have to run coaches that get them there in time for that. You have to leave a bit of leeway as well so that people feel comfortable getting there in plenty of time, particularly going back from the airport as well. When people are going home they do not want to wait around so it is essential that you have a service that minimises the wait. The frequency you operate will depend on the destination and the volumes of people to carry.

Q642 Mr. David Clelland: Those services are subsidised by services run at more popular times?

Mr Lambden: In effect, yes. There are some times when they are very busy; there are some times when they are quiet, but we need to provide those. If planes are delayed at all, we need to have something where people feel confident that there will be another coach to take them at a later time.

Q643 Mr. David Clelland: What are the main problems facing coach operators at airports?

Mr Lambden: There can be a lack of space at times. It can be the facilities that are provided.

Q644 Mr. David Clelland: Are the terminals well situated?

Mr Lambden: They vary according to the airport. If you take Liverpool John Lennon Airport, the buses and coaches terminate right outside the door.

Q645 Mr. David Clelland: That is a problem airport in your view. Are there any others?

Mr Lambden: I did not say it was a problem airport. They take people right where they want to go to. In other places they will be further away. Clearly, you cannot go right to the front door of a Heathrow terminal because of the layout of the place. Sometimes there are long walks in the terminal. Manchester was mentioned earlier on, the facilities and investments they had made in their ground transport interchange. They have provided a very good facility which is excellent for people getting to some parts of the terminal and further for people going to terminal two.

Q646 Chairman: Manchester and Liverpool are good. Which are bad?

Mr Lambden: Gatwick is probably one of the less good ones at the present time. Facilities there are much more basic. Heathrow was in our view a bad one. Despite the fact that it was all covered, facilities were quite minimal. We worked with BAA on that. We persuaded them that work needed to be done and we put money where our mouth was and invested in it with them. We developed the facilities ourselves. When people are waiting at an airport to depart, their last memory of that airport is going to be what they see, sitting around there. People tend to want to wait at the departure gate. They have this nervousness about being at the right place at the right time, even if they are not due to go for an hour. If you sit in a place where it is windswept, you will not enjoy that airport the next time or you will be deterred from using public transport. Our belief which we put to airports is that facilities outside of the bus and coach terminals should match the facilities inside.

Q647 Mr. David Clelland: Is the question whether a coach terminal at an airport is good or bad related to the amount of usage or other influences?

Mr Lambden: From our point of view, we would invest where there is more usage because we will satisfy more customers. If somebody only has a handful of people a day, we are not going to put a lot of money into providing a facility there. It is important to have good facilities where volumes are still not great because that encourages people to use them and hopefully you can see it as a way of building business for the future.

Q648 Mr. David Clelland: Do you see that in the future this is going to be a growing method of transport to and from airports as compared with other methods of transport?

Mr McInnes: If you look at the CAA figures on the expansion plans for airports we already have our network strategy review under way, looking at essentially how we can adapt our network to serve airports better, not just the main London airports but regional airports.

Mr Lambden: Adding to what Mr Morgan said earlier on, we have greatly expanded our services in and out of Stansted Airport, which has been one of the major growth areas. If you look back five years ago, we had one service to central London. We now have three separate services operating up to every ten minutes at peak times taking people to different parts of London. We have introduced new services to the east and west Midlands and we are looking for ways of expanding in other directions as well in conjunction with the airports.

Q649 Mr. David Clelland: What about environmentally friendly fuels? Is that something you have looked at?

Mr Lambden: We use low sulphur diesel. All our vehicles meet the standards which the Mayor is going to require for the low emission zone. We are continually seeking ways of improving the efficiency of our vehicles. It is good business sense from our point of view.


Q700 Mr. David Clelland: Do disabled people have particular problems with airline baggage policies?

Mrs Bates: We are negotiating hard. Since British Airways came up with the idea of one bag of a certain weight, we have had British Airways in to our Aviation Group and have negotiated with them about disabled people, who are unable to carry one large bag, being able to distribute it to two bags with no extra charging. The problem with this are the invisible, disabled people. It is all very well for me, I am obviously disabled, but the vast majority of disabled people who would not be able to manage that case are not visibly disabled, so we do have some issues about that, but we are assured that their staff will be looking out for said people and letting them use two cases.

Q701 Mr. David Clelland: So you have fought it with British Airways, but what about other airlines?

Mrs Bates: We speak to a number and everyone who comes on our Aviation Group actually have agreed to that principle, and we are working with ABTA as well. The Chair of the Aviation Group is the Head of Consumer Affairs at ABTA, so we work in concert with them.

Q702 Mr. David Clelland: Is the baggage policy the thing you get most complaints about?

Mrs Bates: We get a lot of complaints about wheelchair damage and we are working with the airlines about a safe way of transporting wheelchairs. Most wheelchair users who travel have found a way round these by taking anything loose off the wheelchair and we take it in the cabin with us. There were a lot of problems with that in the recent security alerts. Various people have manufactured bags and things like that to put wheelchairs in and we do get a lot of problems with that. I believe the Montreal Convention does not allow for the full price of the wheelchair if it is damaged in the hold. There are also issues about the drugs that you need when you are at your destination, not just on the plane, because it is very difficult for some disabled people to get travel insurance and extra insurance like that and, if I was, say, going to America to visit my son, replacing my drugs would be a prohibitive cost to me, so we do have issues, but our main problems are about boarding and alighting from planes.

Q703 Mr. David Clelland: So you would say presumably that, where possible, there should be an industry-wide standard across all airlines?

Mrs Bates: Very much so. I think it gives clarity to both the industry and to disabled people. I think it is just as important that the industry have clarity as it is for us.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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