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UK: London Stansted’s new CEO, Ken O’Toole, has called on the Government to put in place a national aviation strategy that not only supports airports to grow but ensures the spare capacity available today is used to generate the biggest positive impact for consumers and the economy.

Speaking to a 500-strong audience of infrastructure experts at the London Infrastructure Summit, Ken O’Toole said a lot more can be done to improve the UK’s connectivity with the rest of the world to ensure it succeeds as an outward-facing trading nation as the country prepares to leave the EU and at a time when airport capacity is at a premium.

Ken O’Toole said:

“The UK is going to need the aviation industry to be at the top of its game over the next 10-15 years to build a prosperous and global Britain. First and foremost, we need to ensure that we make the most productive and efficient use of the capacity we have already.

“We will shortly be applying to raise our planning cap so that we can make full use of our runway. Securing that approval would enable Stansted to meet 50% of London’s expected passenger growth over the next decade, double our economic output to £2 billion and create thousands of new jobs.”
Mr O’Toole went on to stress the importance of rail and road connectivity:

“If we are serious about getting the most from our airports, joined up thinking on road, rail and aviation policies should be a priority for Government.

“In the case of Stansted, a key priority is creating the best possible rail links from the airport to London and Cambridge. Faster journey times will not only expand our reach but also, and most importantly, strengthen our ability to attract the increasing number of long-haul airlines that wish to serve London.

“Stansted offers the 'primary growth opportunity’ in the south over the next 15 years and businesses and passengers will reap the benefits with increased global connectivity, trade opportunities and more choice.”

Mr O’Toole also reiterated industry calls for the reform of Air Passenger Duty. He stated that the UK has the highest rates of aviation taxation of any developed nation, by some margin, which inhibits demand and affects the ability to compete against EU and global competitors for airline capacity.

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UK based passenger experience consultancy Transporting Cities has released three case studies considering passenger journey experience on Heathrow Express, Sydney Airport Link and West Midlands/Birmingham Rail.

For the two air-rail links, Transporting Cities has focused on journey experience for arriving international passengers travelling through the airport onwards to the city rail link, identifying the escape points along the way.

“I would say that the biggest challenge in providing excellent journey experience is recognising that passengers’ assumptions on services are informed by their home systems. In the case of major airports, passengers are arriving from far flung destinations and will interpret rail services differently whereas the user experience has usually been designed by a local planner,” Liam Henderson, Founder of Transporting Cities said, “we come to a system fresh and provide this external viewpoint”.

The assessments assumed the role of a first-time user and were conducted as a walkthrough from plane to train. Beginning at the gate, the route proceeded through the arrivals process into the public arrivals area, before entering the rail station and boarding platform.

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“It was extremely helpful to have an external entity consider the plane to platform path, working with an objective perspective and providing invaluable insight. The report has served in identifying opportunities to test and improve the passenger journey, reaffirming the need to revisit and improve elements that had already been identified historically but had not received license to implement,” Gavin Clare-Campbell, Project Manager - Commercial Sales at Heathrow Express commented.

According to Liam, after receiving feedback from operators he sees that there is more work to be done to advocate for the needs of the passengers who are unfamiliar with the service.

“Making the system accessible for these passengers will increase the overall user experience. I think there is an opportunity for some level of standardisation in information provision across major airports so that a visitor to any global airport can expect to see a familiar guide through to the rail service.”

Liam will be presenting the findings at the annual Global AirRail Conference, taking place in Brussels on 13-14 November. 

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UK: In the first collaboration of its kind, Heathrow Express has launched an exclusive €15 ticket in conjunction with the new British Airways’ “Day Tripper” fare this month.

Saving more than 60% off the turn up and go price, the exclusive day return fares will be available on Saturdays and Sundays for passengers flying into London Heathrow from Milan, Paris and Berlin on the British Airways €99 fare in Euro Traveller (economy) and the €199 fare in Club Europe (business class).

In addition, children aged 15 and under travel free on Heathrow Express at all times.

Fraser Brown Director of Heathrow Express said: “This is a first for Heathrow Express and British Airways. We are delighted to launch this exclusive ticket offer and are committed to supporting British Airways in their endeavours to attract more visitors to London for business or pleasure.

“The UK capital has been named the top destination for shoppers this summer, and we know day trippers want to connect to the centre of London as quickly as possible. These fares not only offer the best price but also the fastest route into the heart of the capital.

“We continue to offer flexible pricing to our customers and airline partnerships continue to be a priority for our commercial expansion.”

Avios can also be earned on flights and Heathrow Express tickets.

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CANADA: Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca announced that the province has commenced the GO Rail Network Electrification Transit Project Assessment Process. The process builds on public consultations held last year and will assess the environmental impacts of converting core segments of the GO rail network, including the UP Express, from diesel to electric. It is a critical step towards enabling the province to begin the procurement process to select a vendor to electrify the system.

In tandem with the assessment process, Ontario is also undertaking a feasibility study on the use of hydrogen fuel cells as an alternative technology for electrifying GO rail service and the UP Express. Recent advances in the use of hydrogen fuel cells to power electric trains in other jurisdictions makes it important that Ontario consider this clean electric technology as an alternative to conventional overhead wires. As part of the study, this fall the province will bring together industry leaders in fuel cell technology for a symposium to explore the potential application of hydrogen fuel cell technology to electrify the GO rail network.

Ontario is undertaking a $21.3 billion transformation of the GO network, which is the largest commuter rail project in Canada. The investment will deliver faster and more frequent service, create thousands of jobs and improve people's quality of life. Ontario is on track to electrify and expand the rail network, and bring more two-way, all-day service to commuters and families by increasing the number of weekly trips from about 1,500 to nearly 6,000 by 2025.