Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Heathrow Airport has announced it is exploring a new set-down fee for vehicles accessing its departure forecourts from autumn 2021 to help prevent a car led COVID-19 recovery.
According to airport sources the pandemic has forced the airport to alter transport plans in the wake of a 80% drop in passengers and changed travel behaviours.
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.
Heathrow expects fewer cars on the road due to reduced passenger demand, but concerns around using public transport due to the pandemic present a new challenge moving forward. Responding to this, the new Forecourt Access Charge (FAC) will replace plans for a Heathrow Ultra Low Emissions Zone (HULEZ) announced in May 2019, although future emissions reductions schemes could be considered.
Revenue raised through the FAC will be used to offset airport costs, including future sustainable transport investments, as well as lowering the charges for passengers.
Consultation has begun with stakeholders around the details of Heathrow’s new proposal, including how the FAC will be administered, 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.
Passengers already have the alternative option of being dropped off in the long stay car parks today and travelling to terminals via a free shuttle bus.
Similar access charges are already in place at 8 out of the 10 largest UK airports including Manchester, Stansted and Birmingham. In addition, Gatwick Airport have recently announced plans to implement a similar charge.
Tony Caccavone, Heathrow Director of Surface Access, 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.”