BRISTOL AIRPORT IMPROVEMENTS AND THE REGIONAL ECONOMY

Introduced by Norman Tovey, Asst. Director - Passenger Transport Group KPMG, on 16 May 1998

Norman Tovey is the author of the CBI Report Onwards and Upwards - Improving Air Links in the South West. A survey of CBI members in the South West found that the lack of an international airport in the region was its most significant weakness. Of the £40m/yr spent on air travel only £7m is spent in the region.
Bristol City Council recently sold a 51% interest in Bristol International (Lulsgate) Airport to First Bus, the application for the use of Filton for public services having been rejected, and a major investment programme is planned
About 40 % of flights from Bristol are charter services, the scheduled flights going to Brussels, Amsterdam, Paris (for connecting flights), other English airports, Ireland and Scotland.
Business travellers mostly used Heathrow, sometimes Gatwick, then Bristol, Birmingham and Cardiff. Their main requirements were: direct flights or easy connections to their destination; frequency of services (in case of personal timetable changes); and reliability. Their travel departments or agencies favour Heathrow for these reasons. Many of the users preferred it because it had a prestigious image for them, in spite of it now taking twice the time it used to, to reach it by car. Cars were used by 80% of those going there. With a mobile phone and lap-top computer in a chauffeur-driven car an executive may not waste as much working time travelling as a few years ago. The new Heathrow Express rail link from Paddington may not help business travellers from the South -West much as no trains get to Paddington in time for them to catch the early flights.
Bristol has a reputation for bad weather and the new owners are installing radar landing systems to overcome this, but one cancellation for fog five years ago is remembered adversely by a traveller. It has no rail link, although there is now an airport bus service from Temple Mead station. KLM / AirUK is now flying to Schipol, Amsterdam, a City Hopper service five times a day, and this is popular but the ‘chicken and egg’ position means it will not expand unless the business grows, which it will not until there are more flights. Direct flights to Milan, Madrid, Munich and Scandinavia are desired by businesses but not yet economic for airlines from Bristol.
The growth of the economy of the South Western region is likely to be affected by the lack of an international airport for some years. [A copy of the CBI Report is available on loan from the convener]
Rodney Tye & Don Lovell