Action plan for the future

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Richard Hartshorn has been appointed professional head of airport masterplanning at design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins. Here, he talks to Passenger Terminal World about his passion for the industry and how he plans to drive forward the future of international air travel

What experience do you have in the airport planning industry?
I was at Heathrow for 17 years, with 10 years leading on airport masterplanning and capacity management. In total I have spent five years on the third runway project. I have also played a key role in developing the ‘two runway’ infrastructure strategies to accommodate increasing A380 movements, the business case to increase Terminal 5’s campus capacity for peak hour growth, and closing and redeveloping the old Terminal 1 apron space.

What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Without a doubt, it has been influencing the approaches taken and future shape and operation of a three runway Heathrow. The ambition is to create the most sustainable airport in the world and this has required a lot of innovative thinking. It is a true mega program – the interfaces between all the moving parts are significant and complex. Turning this into a simple message for an external audience was an important professional moment for me – a small team invested many hours authoring the January 2018 DCO consultation documents (see which conveyed the depth of work in a high-quality manner.

What are you looking forward to most in your new role at Atkins?
Ambition and challenge. I have been given a clear mandate to build a world class capability in aviation masterplanning that draws on the breadth and depth of the talent at Atkins. And coming from client-side, I can see a clear opportunity to bring a different insight, thinking and more holistic integration into our proposition for clients that is currently missing in the market.

What are the biggest challenges of airport masterplanning and how do you approach these?
Strategic airport planning is facing generic challenges such as new airline operating models, and the impact of technology and other megatrends. But the specifics for each airport will be different depending on local factors. For instance, at Heathrow the challenge is to make airport expansion work for local communities. Therefore, there is a lot of focus on integrating the airport in a much more sustainable way than ever before, such as improved local public transport connectivity into the regional and national transport networks via the existing airport stations.

What is your advice for an airport when embarking on a new masterplan?
My initial advice would be to focus on agreeing a long-term vision. The airport masterplan is the physical platform to deliver the airport’s vision, strategies and operational concepts over a phased program. We would work with the local airport leadership team to bring these strategies to life, and then use these as criteria to select the optimal operating strategies and physical infrastructure into a masterplan and land use plan. Wide ranging stakeholder engagement is essential to achieve this.

What are the biggest trends affecting masterplanning/airport development at the moment?
Passenger growth, keeping investment costs low, fast technological change, evolving airline models, and tougher sustainability targets, to name a few. It is incredibly challenging for strategic airport planners to produce infrastructure plans over the long term that can successfully accommodate this scale of change. The metaphor of building a theater but adapting the stage every decade is very apt. How this is practically done is the challenge for my pavement and building design colleagues!

What are your predictions for the future of airport development – what technologies/services will play a big role?
At its simplest, airports are where passengers change modes of transport, but it does feels like we have put a lot of complexity in the way of that being the current experience. Successful airports are likely to be ones where the flows are simple, quick, resilient and embellished with a ‘wow’ factor. If we link this to the theater/stage metaphor, combine it with IATA NEXTT concepts, you could see a world with more product standardization than today. The benefits to airports could be reduced investment costs, faster time to market, higher capacity utilization, and more adaptable spaces while still providing excellent customer service and an airport defining ambience.

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With over a decade of experience as a business and technology journalist working in B2B publishing, Hazel first joined UKi in 2011. After taking 18 months off to bring up her daughter and try her hand at marketing copywriting, she returned in January 2018 to do what she loves best – magazine editing! She is now the editor of UKi's Passenger Terminal World and Parcel and Postal Technology International magazines.

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