air union jack © Photographerlondon
© Photographerlondon

Enfranchising regional UK gateways as air freight hubs will be pivotal to relieving the potential pressures of a no-deal Brexit on the country’s transport sector.

As Liverpool and Doncaster move to secure air freight capacity in the event of supply chain disruption, other airports are looking for government support to become freight players, to boost local economies and relieve pressure on Heathrow.

Expectations are that in a no-deal scenario, shippers will turn to markets outside Europe to import and export goods, in turn generating greater air freight volumes in the UK.

During the FTA’s Aviation Strategy – Ready For Take Off? event in London today, Chris Cain, of the Regional and Business Airports Group, said: “If we are expanding our import and export markets post-Brexit, business is going to be increasingly reliant on Heathrow, unless changes are made.

“Only a third of freight actually originates in the south-east, with the rest coming from the wider country – and we represent gateways within 60 minutes of everywhere in the UK.”

However, more than half the UK’s air freight flies in and out of Heathrow, which is already at capacity. Although a new runway will boost available capacity, this could take up to a decade to be built and ready for use.

“There is huge capacity and opportunities at these small, regional airports with strong transport links and fewer environmental restraints upon them,” said Mr Cain.

“As an example of willingness, Cardiff and Exeter are both looking at becoming larger players in freight, but they need some government support and the industry must become more creative.”

In particular, he called for the DfT to provide a clear pathway for smaller airports to secure the type of status that would make them attractive to forwarders and airlines. And he suggested that by opening up regional gateways as freighter hubs, regional businesses could become more profitable.

“Does a lack of regional air freight connectivity negatively impact the smaller, regional businesses that do not currently have affordable access to global markets?” he asked.

“We are willing but believe that there is a need for government policy initiatives to make this a realistic option.”

To find out more about Brexit and its effects, come to The Loadstar Live Brexit Breakdown in Rotterdam, on June 19.

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