Thursday, August 7, 2014

News: "No constraints" to doubling capacity at region's airport


Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield, the regional airport for the Sheffield city region, has no constraints for expansion and could double the passenger capacity in the long term - up to 24 million every year.

Owners, Peel Holdings, were in the region recently to update local transport leaders on its current and long term plans for the site, where the leading infrastructure, transport and real estate investment company has recently purchased 480 acres of additional land.

Peter Nears, strategic planning director at Peel Holdings, said: "It's safe to say that in recent years the aviation industry has had it pretty tough, particularly in the regional airports sector, but we feel as though the economy is looking a little bit better and we have made significant additional investments in the site. We've recently purchased a further 480 acres adjacent to the site so moving forward we've got major investment in it."

The last year has seen new staff put in place at the airport, with budgets behind them, and research has been carried out into leisure and business connectivity, identifying demand and what the region needs. A new five year business plan has now been approved.

Steve Gill, managing director for Doncaster Sheffield Airport, said: "The economy is looking up and we saw growth at the airport last year. Only 2.5%, but back in the right direction for the first time in some years. And on the basis of unfulfilled potential, Peel Group has come back in and we are setting out once again to fulfil the objectives we had when we initially invested in the site.

"It is our belief that the airport is here for the long term and really will suit the needs of the region."

For this long term, Peel has begun looking beyond the current masterplan for the site, past 2030, which includes further development on the additional 400 acres, and even the possibility of a second terminal.

Peter Nears, explained: "In 2011 we put together a masterplan to 2030 and it sets out the proposals both for passenger facilities, showing that we can accommodate 12 million passengers a year, and also for significant growth in cargo. It also looked at the site as a whole - housing development, employment site development, local facilities.

"We are also looking ahead, and we did submit a document to the Airports Commission last year that included land that we have now purchased. What we are looking at is: "What is the capacity of the site? What can it accommodate and what could it do if it was called upon in a more national manner to fill some of the gap in terms of congestion at Heathrow and the South East?"

"In fact we could accommodate nearly 24 million [passengers a year] if called upon to do so. We have the essential infrastructure - the runway and all the services - it's all future proofed. The terminal is designed in a way that it's modular and can be extended but we can also accommodate within the scheme, a second terminal if needed.

"So plenty of scope in the very long term to expand the site and there are no capacity constraints that will prevent us really grasping this opportunity."
Peel bought the site from the Ministry of Defence when it was RAF Finningley in 1999 and has invested around £150m. It was the first airport to open in 50 years when the first commercial flight took off in 2005.

The new link road currently under construction is of huge importance. The £60m FARRRS project, with £12m from Peel, is estimated to result in £1 billion of further investment and 14,000 jobs. It will reduce all important drive times and more airlines are starting to take notice.

Peel is also sourcing further government funding for infrastructure and support for new routes, and is working hard to ensure that the region's airport features in the recently announced One North plan of transport improvements linking the major cities in the North.

Nears, said: "The Doncaster-Lincoln line runs adjacent to the site and one of the areas we are interested in further delivery is to construct a station. If we're going to have an "HS3" programme of work connecting the Northern cities together, then it needs also to connect the airports serving the region to those cities. The potential at Doncaster/Sheffield means that it should also be considered. There is the opportunity to bring a direct connection from the East Coast Mainline through the site.

"There aren't really any constraints that we see that would affect our ability to cater for passengers and to pull passengers from the northern part of the London catchment. With connections to Peterborough or Stevenage stations, really what we should be saying is that not everything has to go down to Heathrow or "Boris Island." There are actually areas where we could cater for [the Government] in a much more sustainable manner in terms of investment in infrastructure."

More than 695,000 people used the Robin Hood Airport during the 12 months up to the end of March 2014 and current capacity is 2.3 million passengers a year. The cargo operation also reported a 23 per cent annual increase in the number of consignments in and out of the airport, a second successive year of growth.

Steve Gill concluded: "If you were planning on building an airport on a greenfield site, given how congested the UK is, then the site at Doncaster is an extremely good one.

"The length of the runway, the improving access and all the facilities that we have to go with that, gives us a true capability of developing in a sustainable manner."

Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield website

Images: Robin Hood Airport


Anonymous,  August 7, 2014 at 9:40 AM  

Pie in the sky !

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