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How will building a third runway at Heathrow Airport affect the freight industry?

Should the Heathrow Airport expansion go ahead and if so what will this mean for the freight industry? CML's Paul Bambrough-Smith discusses ...

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Discussions over whether to expand Heathrow Airport to include a third runway have raised strong feelings on both sides of the debate.

Heathrow Airport believes a third runway will bring huge benefits to the UK economy and allow it to continue to be Britain's 21st Century gateway to the world - and its plans have received backing from the Airports Commission.

However, nearby residents and environmental groups are concerned about noise and air pollution and locals are up in arms over the fact that 800 homes would be demolished if the expansion was given the go ahead.

Our Global Logistics Manager Paul Bambrough-Smith explores and explains what the expansion could mean for the freight industry.

According to a report by the Airports Commission, Heathrow dominates the UK air freight market, with around £105 billion worth of freight passing through it in 2014.

Today around 40 per cent of the UK's trade with economies outside the EU is transported by air and in 2014 alone the total value of tradable goods carried through UK airports exceeded £140 billion.

As a result, the Airports Commission believes that the long-haul links that an expanded Heathrow can provide will ensure long-term growth in the freight sector.

Core Management Logistics works with agents that are constantly transporting customers' goods through Heathrow and other UK airports commercial hubs to destinations across the world so we understand the significance that Heathrow plays within the air freight industry.

It is the busiest freight airport in the country and as a result we can understand why it's being viewed as the best place to provide for the type of capacity which is most urgently required - long haul destinations to new markets.

If given the go ahead, the expansion would provide considerable increased capacity for air freight with the Airports Commission concluding that it could deliver up to £211 billion in economic growth as well as create up to 180,000 new jobs nationwide.

The disadvantage however, is that Heathrow is already one of the UK's pollution hotspots and this would only get worse with an expansion.

In fairness, much of the pollution comes from the cars, taxis and buses which deposit and pick up travellers, rather than the planes themselves. But traffic would greatly increase if a third runway were to open.

Whether the Heathrow Airport expansion is approved or not, in reality the bigger impact on air freight is the volume of customers who are moving to ocean freight as the vessels are getting bigger and more reliable teamed with the fact that ocean freight costs have fallen dramatically this year.

Ocean freight is one of the most economical ways to transport goods over long distances which is why so many companies are using it. Another benefit is the fact that it allows for greater cargo flexibility. Cargo ships can carry massive amounts from heavy machinery to cars and they can also store a lot at once.

To find out more about our air and ocean freight services visit

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