Is taking an intermodal strategy the answer to increasing scrutiny of airport development projects?

Enraged communities, strict environmental guidelines and general ongoing scrutiny – just a few things routinely challenging airports that are seeking to expand and meet aviation demand. Travellers expect minimal operational delays, fast queueing at security and an overall pleasant airport experience, though largely the opposite becomes the norm when at-capacity airports see their infrastructure plans restricted and delayed.

The CAPA – Centre for Aviation Global Airport Construction Database suggests USD1.1 trillion is currently being invested in airport infrastructure projects, with a pipeline extending almost four decades. Though Henrik Hololei, the European Commission’s director general for Mobility and Transport, acknowledges it has become “very difficult to build a new runway, never mind a new airport”.

There are however construction projects – not limited to aviation – which are generally better received. These often involve the development of public surface transport, which is seen as a better environmental option than private vehicles. Taking this a step further are ‘intermodal’ infrastructure concepts, which seek to combine and integrate rail, road, air and sometimes waterway operations. The European Commission has identified intermodal transport models as its focus in 2018, in particular for “urban and smart city” contexts. Spcifically, the EU aims for:

  • Overall digitalisation, including digital corridor information systems and multimodal travel information and ticketing;
  • The use of economic incentives to promote multimodality;
  • Support for multimodal infrastructure through Connecting Europe Facility and Horizon 2020;
  • Working towards a legislative framework to protect passenger rights in multimodal journeys.

The Blue Swan Daily highlights a few airport projects seeking to adopt the Commission’s new motivation towards intermodal transport:

New Polish Central Airport
Slated to be the largest airport in Poland by 2027, the project is actually not referred to as an ‘airport construction’ project by the Polish Government. Instead, the administration designates the new facility as a “Central Communication Port” (CPK), a mega transport hub capable of handling 100 million passengers per annum and requiring investment over EUR8 billion. The Polish Government promises intermodality at CPK, with streamlined road and rail access. Travellers will be able to check-in on trains and have baggage sent directly to the airport for processing, similar to Hong Kong’s MTR subway “in town” check-in concept. Planned to be situated in the Baranów municipality between Warsaw and Lodz, the central demographic of the new Polish airport is also expected to designate it as Poland’s cargo nucleus. Airport rail will be connected to main network lines, supplementing cargo corridors and supporting a Government claim that all main urban agglomerations will be able to reach the airport in 2.5 hours, with the figure later decreasing to 2 hours.

Helsinki-Vantaa Airport
Finnish state airport operator Finavia recently outlined plans for a 10,000sqm multimodal travel centre project at Helsinki Airport. The project differs from that in Poland, with Helsinki Airport’s positioning around 30 minutes from Helsinki’s docks enabling integration of ferry transport along with buses and rail. The travel centre is planned to commence construction in 2021. It will be a ground transport hub sporting an assortment of surface options to the city of Helsinki, but even more impressive: It will support connections between the airport/city and international ferry operations to Estonia’s Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport. Finavia has already expressed interest in extending the ferry links to other regions.

Frankfurt Airport
Fraport AG has awarded a consortium comprising Siemens, Max Bögl Group and Keolis a EUR300 million contract for commissioning of an automated people mover (APM) at Frankfurt Airport by 2023. The APM will cover nearly 200,000km per month with capacity of up to 4000 passengers per hour in each direction, linking public transport facilities and terminals 1 and 2 to the future terminal 3. The project is designed as a double track system running parallel to the existing Sky Line autonomous system, allowing passengers arriving by long distance and regional rail to directly access the planned terminal 3 via the new shuttle system.