26th June 2003

£2.5 Billion Millstone to Provide Stansted Road and Rail Infrastructure

Massive underestimates in the Department for Transport’s (DfT) predictions for investing in the road and rail upgrades necessary for Stansted Airport to expand to double the size of Heathrow would leave a £2.5 billion millstone around the government’s neck according to a leading UK consultancy on aviation economics.

However, an even greater concern which emerges from the report by Berkeley Hanover Consulting is that the DfT has consistently understated the true employment needs to meet full expansion and both attracted and induced development which in turn would have major knock-on effects.

Worryingly, this shortfall in predictions would mean that far greater levels of housing and urbanisation would be needed within the region than previously indicated, changing its character even more dramatically than first thought. Privately the DfT is understood to be concerned over the new figures since far from increasing prosperity for the region, expansion would lead to a degradation of local quality of life both for existing residents and newcomers resulting largely from the neglect of the road and rail system which would limp along because of underinvestment unless the government were to step in.

This is confirmed by a recent announcement by both BAA and the Strategic Rail Authority (SRA) that they would be seeking substantial subsidy to implement the £1885m infrastructure improvements identified in the government’s air transport consultation if expansion at Stansted went ahead. It is unlikely in the extreme, therefore, that the extra £565m identified in the new report as being essential to the proper upgrading of the transport infrastructure, would be forthcoming from private sources. This is despite the presumption stated within the consultation documents that those who stand to benefit most from expansion should shoulder their share of the costs. If left entirely to private developers, economic theory predicts that surface access would be undersupplied.

The study makes clear that the road network and, to a lesser extent, the rail network would be unable to support the proposed development of Stansted Airport over the next 30 years without a major upgrade beyond that suggested in the consultation.

The reason for the discrepancy is the parallel underestimation of employment figures for an expanded Stansted. These, according to Berkeley Hanover, should be some 24,000 higher for the addition of one new runway and almost 60,000 higher for full expansion with three extra runways to a capacity of 129m passengers per annum. This miscalculation, say the report authors Martin Shenfield and Lewis Allan, would have serious implications for local housing demand, urbanisation and both road network and rail capacity.

The road system, particularly motorways would require major upgrades over and above the improvements suggested in SERAS, including new lanes for large stretches of the M11, M25 and local ‘A’ roads. Meanwhile, rail demand would be some 50 percent more than forecast. The true picture would be even worse if non-airport related travel is taken into account, with leisure, school and other local travel added to the increase that would be expected for an enlarged Stansted. Non-airport related travel would include employees whose work had been generated by the airport expansion, but who would not necessarily be travelling to and from the airport.

Berkeley Hanover Consulting also highlights the need to resolve once and for all the question of the level of surface access required and who pays for it to ensure that such necessary improvements would in fact be made and delivered on time. Three of the key agents in airport surface access provision, it says, appear to be unsure of the way ahead. Both the SRA and BAA recently stated that “Key issues for an acceptable economic transport assessment and the resultant funding requirements will need to be resolved”. The SERAS consultation documents, meanwhile, state that: “Further work will be required to identify in more detail the level of surface transport investment required.”

Commenting on the publication of the report, Mark Prisk MP whose Hertford and Stortford constituency would be severely affected by expansion, said: “This report blows a giant hole in the government’s forecast of how much will needed to make expansion at Stansted viable. It also begs the question of who is going to pay for the infrastructure improvements that would be needed to maintain quality of life in the region – and whether the Treasury is aware of this giant millstone which will hang around the government’s neck if the Department for Transport persists in pressing for expansion at Stansted.”

The report – ‘Impact of Stansted Expansion upon Surface Access Networks’ – was commissioned by campaign group Stop Stansted Expansion with the support of Uttlesford District Council, planning authority for the airport. Berkeley Hanover Consulting was responsible for defining the methodology used as the basis for researching the current consultation on ‘The Future Development of Air Transport in the UK’.

Copies of the report available from this website below or by calling Stop Stansted Expansion on 01279 870558.

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits