It seems that the inevitable is going to happen – with Heathrow Airport exploring a charge for vehicle access to terminal departure forecourts
If they go ahead with the planned charge, expect it to appear from Q4 2021.
Rather than hide behind any excuses, it seems the airport has come straight out and said
Heathrow has announced it is exploring a proposal to implement a Forecourt Access Charge (FAC) for vehicles in late 2021 to prevent a car led airport recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The charge, expected to be around £5, is part of several revisions to the airport’s surface access plan as a result of the near collapse in passenger numbers and £1.5bn losses incurred in 2020.
COVID-19 has sent shock waves through the aviation sector. As a result, Heathrow has reviewed all its planned investments which were committed when over 80m passengers were using the airport annually.
This review has led to changes which recalibrate the airport’s spending on surface access projects so that environmental impacts will continue to be reduced, whilst the business and colleague jobs are protected during this time with fewer passengers.
Whilst the airport is expecting fewer cars on the road, the forecourt access charge will replace the plan for a Heathrow Ultra Low Emissions Zone, although future emissions reductions schemes could be considered.
As for the money raised? It will be used to offset airport costs. The airport promises to spend it on future sustainable transport investments, as well as lowering the charges for passengers.
The airport has started a consultation, with the with details expected to be finalised in 2021.
The Forecourt Access Charge will apply to all vehicles entering the forecourts of Heathrow’s terminals, although some exceptions will apply such as blue badge holders and emergency vehicles.
The full list of exemptions has yet to be finalised.
For those who don’t want to pay, an option will exist where you can be dropped off at one of the airports many long-stay car park, and be shuttled over to the airport terminals.
Heathrow Director of Surface Access Tony Caccavone said:
“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.”
What did I say about low-hanging fruit recently?
It’s no surprise that the airport has made this move, following Gatwick at long last, along with Manchester, Stansted, Birmingham, Edinburgh and so on grabbing this easy to gain fee
For those who implement it, it targets those who are being dropped off by friends, family or in a Taxi/Uber/Ola as an extra cost to be added onto the journey.
With the small list of exemptions, a lot of people won’t escape the charge.
Again – it’s time vs money. Is £5 worth the wait for a bus in a long term car park, with a journey to a Heathrow terminal – or is it easier to pay the £5 and be done with it?
These charges are all well and good, but they need to have a real-world impact on the passenger on how that charge is being used.
And in most of the schemes I’ve seen – the only benefit so far is to the bottom line of the airport.
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