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An action plan for airports in Europe: the “airport package”
This Communication reports the state of play regarding airport management in Europe and emphasises the importance of airports in the air transport network. The text thus defines the course to be taken to deal with the expected “capacity crunch”.
Commission Communication of 24 January 2007 to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions entitled "An action plan for airport capacity, efficiency and safety in Europe" [COM (2006) 819 final - not published in the Official Journal].
If air traffic continues to increase at the current rate, Europe will be faced with a shortfall of infrastructure if no action is taken. Between now and 2025, over 60 European airports will be heavily congested and the top 20 airports will be saturated at least 8-10 hours per day. This weakest link is in fact threatening the efficiency of the entire air transport network. Congestion will also have a negative impact on the environment and on safety.
In this Communication, the Commission is announcing five key actions:
- make better use of existing airport capacity;
- develop a consistent approach to air safety operations at airports;
- promote "co-modality", the integration and collaboration between modes of transport;
- improve the environmental capacity of airports and the planning framework for new airport infrastructure;
- develop and implement cost-efficient technological solutions.
The need for reorganisation to make better use of existing capacity
The Commission wants to undertake a precise measurement of airport throughput, with the support of Eurocontrol, in order to develop common analytical tools for capacity assessment. With the support of Member States, an observatory should be set up to supervise existing and planned capacity.
Eurocontrol should also obtain a mandate to develop tools intended to ensure consistency between airport slots and flight plans, and to recommend any amendments that may be required to the applicable legislation.
The Commission also proposes to ensure that developments in the sector are easier to anticipate, by encouraging collaborative decision-making amongst the various actors involved in air transport.
The European Aviation Safety Agency should also have its responsibilities extended to include regulating airport security, as aerodromes are still the least regulated and thus the weakest link in the air transport network. It is anticipated that the Commission will adopt a legislative proposal on this matter at the beginning of 2008.
The Commission also recommends the use of Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) to reinforce airport security. They could also permit greater flexibility in the design of approach and departure routes in order to reduce noise impact or to permit the completely safe use of more closely spaced airports or runways. The SESAR programme should result in a comprehensive inclusion of GNSS in operational procedures for air traffic management.
Promoting co-modality and developing new infrastructures
The Commission considers that air and rail transport should become more complementary: improving links between different modes of transport would offer a large number of benefits. The Commission thus wishes to:
- develop rail links between cities and airports in order to decongest road networks;
- develop regional links in order to expand the airport’s catchment area;
- introduce high-speed links between airports and major urban centres.
In highlighting the availability of funding from the TEN-T for financing co-modality projects, the Commission invites Member States to support the development of inter-modal inter-changes at airports, such as rail links or the provision of stations at airports.
At the same time, the Commission wishes to address the requirements for new infrastructures. It therefore proposes to improve the planning framework for these, taking more account of environmental constraints, such as noise impact. The Commission also wants to simplify procedures and recommend guidelines for best practice in order to promote better coordination of airport planning and of wider land-use plans.
Developing and implementing new technologies
As part of its Research Framework Programmes, the Commission has financed several projects relating to Advanced-Surface Movement Guidance and Control Systems (A-SMGCS) to ensure the routing, guiding and surveillance of aircraft and vehicles. New technologies have also been developed as part of the SESAR programme, in order to increase the safety and efficiency of airport operation.
With this airport package, the Commission has also published a report on the application of the Directive on access to the groundhandling market at Community airports.
|Key terms in the act|