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Driving to Fly? London Heathrow Considers Car Access Fee

The Heathrow Observer,

Friday December 4, 2020.

Heathrow has announced it is exploring a proposal to implement a Forecourt Access Charge (FAC) for vehicles in late 2021 to prevent a car led airport recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The charge, expected to be around £5, is part of several revisions to the airport’s surface access plan as a result of the near collapse in passenger numbers and £1.5bn losses incurred in 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic, and government responses to to it worldwide, has sent shock waves through the aviation sector. As a result, Heathrow has reviewed all its planned investments which were committed when over 80m passengers were using the airport annually. This review has led to changes which recalibrate the airport’s spending on surface access projects so that environmental impacts will continue to be reduced, whilst the business and colleague jobs are protected during this time with fewer passengers.

Heathrow expects fewer cars on the road due to reduced passenger demand, but concerns around using public transport due to the pandemic present a new challenge moving forward. Responding to this, the FAC will replace plans for a Heathrow Ultra Low Emissions Zone (HULEZ) announced in May 2019, although future emissions reductions schemes could be considered.

The revised plan ensures Heathrow remains able to meet its long-term public transport goals and, other measures, including HULEZ, can still be implemented if needed.

Revenue raised through the FAC will be used to offset airport costs, including future sustainable transport investments, as well as lowering the charges for passengers.

Consultation has begun with stakeholders around the details of Heathrow’s new proposal, including how the FAC will be administered, with details expected to be finalised in 2021.

The Forecourt Access Charge will apply to all vehicles entering the forecourts of Heathrow’s terminals, although some exceptions will apply such as blue badge holders and emergency vehicles. The full list of exemptions has yet to be finalised.

Passengers already have the alternative option of being dropped off in the long stay car parks and travelling to terminals via a free shuttle bus.

Heathrow Director of Surface Access Tony Caccavone said: “The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been severe, especially on the aviation industry with Heathrow passenger numbers down over 80% and the business losing £5m a day. These changes will help us to protect the business financially and save jobs in the short term, whilst also allowing us to stay on track for our long-term goals of providing safe, sustainable and affordable transport options into the future.”

Below - large use of cars for travelling to any airport also requires equally large areas in which to put them while flyers are away

Lewis Clarke / London : Heathrow Airport - Car Park / CC BY-SA 2.0

  • Similar access charges are already in place at 8 out of the 10 largest UK airports including Manchester, Stansted and Birmingham. In addition, Gatwick Airport has recently announced plans to implement a similar charge.

  • Further details on how the scheme will be implemented and consulted on will be finalised as the project progresses.

  • This charge is replacing the previously announced plans for a Heathrow Ultra Low Emissions Zone in the short term. In the long-term, however, this scheme does not preclude future emissions based incentivisation.

  • Revisions to the airport's short-term surface access targets are still being finalised.

KJM Today Opinion

The first reaction of many airport users - those that are left at least - will no doubt be one of 'Not another cost!' Yet pause and think for a moment. Heathrow is already a well-connected airport when it comes to ground transport to and from not only London but elsewhere as well. For most people, the trains and buses are reasonable alternatives. Encouraging travellers to use them is not such a bad idea.

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