East Midlands Airport calls on government to “unlock” its cargo potential

East Midlands Airport (EMA) wants the UK government to “unlock its potential” as a major airfreight hub, with management tabling five key policy requests to promote the cargo gateway’s fuure development.

The airport, part of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), wants the government to set out clear policies to solidify its position as a “globally significant cargo hub,” which already handles 365,000 tonnes each year, amounting to £40bn of trade to and from the European Union (EU) and £10bn of non-EU imports and exports.

The airport’s call to action was as part of MAG’s response to the government’s Aviation 2050 Green Paper consultation, which closed on June 20.

The group’s response included several ‘asks’ that would commit the government to formally recognise EMA’s “important national and regional role”.

The next 10 years, ahead of the opening of the planned third runway at Heathrow, and beyond to 2050 are critical for EMA as it prepares to meet increased airfreight demand, said an MAG spokesperson.

“While the government’s Green Paper alludes to the vital role of airfreight to the UK economy (contributing around £2.3bn a year to UK Plc), there is very little in way of specific policy which is needed if EMA is going to prosper in the future.

“EMA believes that there is value in the Aviation Strategy setting out the airport’s national strategic role in meeting UK airfreight demand.”

EMA, whose freighter airline customers include Fed Ex/TNT, UPS and Royal Mail, is already expanding the apron space for freighter aircraft as the UK cargo hub prepares for increased volumes driven by the e-commerce boom.

The specific ‘asks’ from EMA in the consultation call on the government to:

  • work with EMA as the government promotes digitisation to speed up the handling of goods at the border, which is key for time-critical airfreight
  • help airports like EMA to unlock new international trade routes
  • commit to fully exploring the potential for a Free Trade Zone around the airport
  • formally acknowledge the airport’s strategically important role in the continued growth of the regional and national economy
  • ensure a more joined-up approach to planning, making sure that airport, road and railway investment is considered alongside the needs for more housing, industrial development and future energy provision.

Karen Smart, EMA’s managing director, said: “In the coming months I want to work with government to develop specific policies that could unlock the growth potential of EMA as a nationally important asset for the UK and its ability to trade globally.

“This would enable government to take a much more active role in supporting the future sustainable development of air freight, in line with the Aviation Strategy’s overall goal.

Karen Smart, EMA’s managing director

“Direct Government support for EMA will also be a sign of Government commitment to the region and will signal recognition for the critical role the East Midlands can play in rebalancing the UK economy if it is enabled to reach its full potential.”

In addition to the ramp expansion for freighters, a new facility for US parcels giant UPS is rapidly taking shape on the eastern side of EMA. The £114m development will double the size of the UPS operation at the hub.

A final white paper version of the UK government’s aviation strategy will be published later in 2019.


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