We look at which major players and issues will be top of the agenda within business travel as well as the wider transport and infrastructure sectors during 2015 and beyond.
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Chancellor of the Exchequer
In a speech given in June last year Chancellor Osborne said he wanted to rebalance the economy – which London “currently dominates” – and create a “northern powerhouse”. He said one way this can be done is by joining northern cities together with an improved transport network. Business Travel Show event director David Chapple nominated Osborne for his £15 billion investment plan for a new economic hub linking five northern cities.
Osborne’s plans include a new high-speed rail link between Manchester and Leeds that could cost up to £7 billion, and he has committed £600 million to a new northern hub. Osborne’s influence in travel this year obviously depends heavily on May’s election result but, if the Conservatives win another term, expect further calls to ban APD after cutting the tax for under-12s in his Autumn Statement.
Chairman, HS2 Ltd
Higgins took over the £50 billion high speed 2 project last year, after working on the London 2012 Olympics, and conducted a complete appraisal. He emphasised the benefit of increased capacity over cutting journey times and said improved east-west rail and road links in the north of England were vital. That won over many doubters in the North, who feared HS2 would simply suck more activity to London.
This could be an important year for Higgins and his high-speed rail bid as cross-party criticism still threatens to derail the scheme. Many Conservative backbenchers remain opposed, as does UKIP. However, the current government remains committed to the project, with George Osborne trumpeting his investment in the Northern Hub project. Higgins has said his greatest challenge around HS2 is “keeping the continuity and momentum over the next 12 months”.
Sir Howard Davies
Chairman, Airports Commission
After starting off with more than 50 suggestions on how to increase hub air capacity in the south-east, Sir Howard and his fellow commission members will this year have to present its final proposal to the UK government. One of the options not on the shortlist is ‘Boris Island’ (named after its main proponent, Mayor of London Boris Johnson), a hub airport in the Thames estuary, which was dismissed over cost and environmental concerns.
After May’s general election, Davies will decide between three shortlisted options: a third runway at Heathrow; lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow; and a second runway at Gatwick. But don’t expect a decision to put this long-running issue to bed.
It could face a further twist if the Liberal Democrats retain some power in the election, with the party earlier this year backing a complete ban on any new runways.
Easyjet CEO McCall was on last year’s hotlist but it seemed right to include her again: the past 12 months has seen significant growth – in terms of network, profit and inroads into the business travel market. The airline’s latest figures show a 21.5 per cent rise in annual pre-tax profits, helped by a 6.6 per cent boost in passenger numbers compared to the previous 12 months.
Following in Easyjet’s contrails is budget rival Ryanair. In late-2013, the low-cost carrier’s shares fell sharply after it issued a profits warning; this led to CEO O’Leary going on the charm offensive with the ‘Always Getting Better’ customer initiative, by signing partnerships with global distribution systems (GDSs) and announcing a business class service, Business Plus.
German software maker SAP completed one of the biggest deals of 2014 when it acquired expense management company Concur in an agreement worth around US$8.3 billion. The deal means the two companies together will have more than 50 million users in the cloud – more than any enterprise cloud company – and will be the second largest cloud company globally by measure of revenue.
McDermott’s role will be to lead successfully this integration with Concur, which has 23,000 customers, 4,200 employees and 25 million active users in 150 countries. He was nominated for the Hotlist by GBTA senior vice-president Paul Tilstone. “Acquiring Concur and linking it inexorably to the SAP platform creates a provider that will seek to dominate the transactional T&E technology space’” says Tilstone. “This will shake up some of the existing technology relationships that are in place.”