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An exterior view of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

Heathrow Airport Considers Vehicle Charge for COVID Losses

Heathrow Airport has announced that it is considering charging vehicles to access its terminal forecourts to recover losses made by COVID.

The plan, which would be implemented in the fourth quarter of 2021, would bring Britain’s busiest airport in line with many others across the United Kingdom.

The Forecourt Access Charge (FAC) looks to replace plans for a Heathrow Ultra Low Emissions Zone (HULEZ) announced in May 2019. The HULEZ would have introduced minimum vehicle emissions standards and charge those with older, dirtier engines.

The FAC plans also bring forward a proposal for the Heathrow Vehicle Access Charge (HVAC). The HVAC was due to be implemented following the third runway’s construction and would charge all cars and taxis entering the airport’s car parks and forecourts regardless of their emissions standards. The HULEZ’s Consultation page states that the HVAC’s main aim was to “establish public transport as the primary means of travel to Heathrow” and generate revenue to improve public transport links.

At Heathrow, the FAC is part of revisions to the airport’s surface access plan as a result of the fall in passenger numbers and £1.5bn losses incurred in 2020. A Heathrow press release suggests that the airport is hoping to “prevent a car-led airport recovery” from the pandemic.

The FAC is expected to cost each user £5 and apply to all vehicles entering the terminal forecourts, with some exemptions. Access charges are already in place at seven of the other ten largest U.K. airports. Similar schemes include Manchester, with a £5 charge for five minutes outside the main terminal doors, and Glasgow, which charges £4 for ten minutes.

Surrey Live reported in October that London’s Gatwick Airport is to introduce a charge identical to Heathrow’s next year. The article reports that the airport was too hoping to generate revenue to help recover from COVID-19 and to contribute to its Sustainable Transport Fund.

Air Quality News reported that car journeys in the U.K. fell 80 percent during the spring lockdown. However, as more people hope to travel safer and socially distant, it is thought that promoting public transport may not be popular. KPMG stated in a report that transport operators are going to have to work to promote public transport as a safe means of commuting, not to mention leisure travel.

The Guardian announced in August that car sales in the country rebounded after lockdown restrictions eased. This highlights Heathrow’s concerns about a car recovery from COVID.

Tony Caccavone, Heathrow Director of Surface Access, said in the Heathrow Press Release, “The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been severe, especially on the aviation industry with Heathrow passenger numbers down over 80% and the business losing £5m a day.

“These changes will help us to protect the business financially and save jobs in the short term, whilst also allowing us to stay on track for our long-term goals of providing safe, sustainable and affordable transport options into the future.” continued Caccavone.

The FAC is currently being consulted upon by Heathrow and its stakeholders, with details expected to be confirmed next year. The FAC also does not prevent future emission reduction schemes from being considered.

At present, Heathrow Airport Holdings owns Heathrow Express, a non-stop rail link between the airport and Paddington Station in Central London. Heathrow Express stated in September 2019 that a train leaves for Heathrow from Central London every 2.5 minutes, also including the London Underground and TfL Rail services. The article also reported that Heathrow Express carried an average of 17,000 passengers a day as of its writing.

Connor Sadler
Connor Sadler
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