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£2.8m project by Stirling expert on tackling airport congestion

Professor Edmund Burke is leading the team of Stirling researchers.
Professor Edmund Burke is leading the team of Stirling researchers.

A major £2.8 million project led by Stirling and Lancaster University teams, which will focus on tackling UK airport congestion, is announced today.

The project will examine the better use of existing capacity and resources – rather than sole reliance on new airport building and expansion – resulting in benefits to both the industry and travellers.

Professor Edmund Burke, Senior Deputy Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, will lead a team of Computing, Science and Mathematics researchers at the University of Stirling in the OR-MASTER Programme Grant (Mathematical Models and Algorithms for Allocating Scarce Airport Resources).

They will work on the EPSRC-funded (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) research with colleagues from Lancaster University Management School.

The six-year study comes amid growing concerns over airport capacity, rising demand, and the impact of congestion on both the travelling public and the air transport industry.

Professor Burke said: “It is recognised that as economies grow and as the need for air travel grows, greater capacity at airports is required. We are delighted to receive this grant, which will investigate - from a mathematical and computational perspective - whether capacity management is being realised as efficiently and effectively as possible.

“By incorporating the needs of a wide variety of stakeholders, including air space operators, airports, airlines and travellers, we aim to produce a better solution not just for the UK, but for the wider international community.”

The work will build on the UK's world-leading expertise in Operational Research to find the most efficient ways to schedule flights, developing and testing new models and solution algorithms that take into account all the factors involved in the allocation of flight 'slots': individual airport operations, networks of airports, airline operations, air traffic management systems, airport authorities, civil aviation authorities, airlines and the travelling public.

Project lead, Professor Konstantinos G. Zografos at Lancaster University Management School, said: "Existing approaches to airport slot allocation do not consider all the real-world complexity involved. Therefore, there is room to improve airport capacity utilization which will benefit airlines, airports and the travelling public.

"It will support policy makers and air transport decision makers here and overseas in getting to grips with airport congestion and in optimally allocating scarce airport resources. The air transport industry generally will benefit from acquiring a better understanding of the trade-off  between capacity utilization, and passenger and airline schedule  delays.”

EPSRC Chief Executive Professor Philip Nelson said: “Put simply, world-class projects like this help to make the UK the best place in the world to research, discover and innovate. This investment will fuel the UK’s technological progress, help address the challenges of today and tomorrow, and contribute to a strong economy.”

Professor Gerry McCormac, University of Stirling Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said: “Professor Edmund Burke’s research is globally renowned. This multimillion pound award, which he and colleagues from Lancaster University have received from the EPSRC, will address congestion at airports around the world.

“At Stirling we are known for world-class research that tackles real life problems. Our excellence in research was demonstrated in the recent UK wide Research Excellence Framework, which positioned us as the 5th most research-intensive university in Scotland and 40th in the UK. Almost three quarters of our research activity was rated as either internationally excellent or world-leading.”

OR-MASTER will involve close collaboration between the two Universities and a host of international organisations, who will provide real-world data, insights and expertise. The project represents a strong partnership between academia, the air transport industry and policy makers.

The project will create opportunities for 12 new researchers – six at each institution - to gain experience with international research centres and air transport industry organisations.