14 August 2011

Heathrow as an airport during and after the Olympic Games 2012

A comment surely must be made about this article in Business Treaveller:
 Or as the BBC put it:

With Heathrow bursting at the seems how can any more passengers be put through the airport? More flights will probably not be squeezed in as there are no slots and no stands(unless off terminal parking with bussing is used). It can be seen that business bums will be replaced by athletic bums and the only way for the airlines to satisfy the extra demand will be to upgrade to bigger aircraft. That will mean more overcrowding in the summer period in the terminals during the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Life, most likely, will be especially uncomfortable for the regular business and leisure traveller.

The importance of this is shown in the passenger figures provided by BAA for the month of July 2011. "Heathrow welcomed more passengers in July 2011 than in any previous month"
The increase was 2.5% over July 2010 to 6.9 million passengers. This gives us an idea of what July/August 2011 is going to be like. For the twelve months to July this year the figure reached a record of 68.5 million passengers. Figures to be noted are the 5.3% increase in traffic to North America and the 80% increase in traffic to Brazil. Of particular note, in its other airports, BAA reported that its traffic at Stansted dropped 7.2%  Very interesting figures and certainly to be taken into consideration with regard to government policies in relation to airports.

As the articles emphasise, the biggest problem will be the quantity of baggage and the bulkiness of these less usual articles which will be diificult to transport in the baggage distribution system.The figures mentioned are 218,000 items of luggage(in one day) to be handled compared to the previous peak of 160,000 items. A lot of these pieces of luggage will be odd things like pole vaults, canoes, bikes and other articles which might well be transported as cargo. The question is if Heathrow will be able to deal with the variety and quantity of items. It will be a very difficult problem. Let us hope that we are not looking at a fiasco here similar to T5´s opening days?

BAA must get it right and show how it can manage a major airport at a major event. Maybe 1000 volunteers for the Games´ period can make a difference, but they must be properly trained for the role they have to undertake. Slapdash improvisation will not be good enough.

On the other hand I would have thought that a designated airport for the games would be one less used and with the potential to fill extra demand. With Heathrow and Gatwick showing growth while Stansted losing passengers that question answers itself. It is also more convenient for the main games site and Olympic village. All that needs to be done is route (and stop) Stansted Express trains through Stratford. This would lessen the load in central London.Other airports are being considered by interested parties, such as Manston in Kent, but will not make a considerable impact on numbers.

The authorities should be working hard at all these problems and showing imagination. Otherwise gridlock threatens which we certainly do not want for the image of the country.