HACAN: “The question is not whether new capacity is required but whether we are making the most intelligent use of existing capacity.”
Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that a new airport in the Thames Estuary will form part of the Government’s consultation on its aviation policy, expected in March (1). The Government has ruled out any new runways in the South East for the duration of this Parliament but the consultation will include options for new runways for the longer-term. However, any further expansion of Heathrow has been ruled out.
The decision to include the option of a Thames Estuary Airport appears to have been made under pressure from business interests which are concerned about lack of capacity. However, the Government’s own forecasts of future demand, published last July, suggest that no new runway would be required before 2030.
An estuary airport would call into question the future of Heathrow. The Department for Transport concluded in 2002 that there was not the market in London and the South East for two international hub airports.
John Stewart, Chair of HACAN, which represents residents under the Heathrow flight paths, said: “There are mixed views in West London about an Estuary Airport. Some residents support it as it would remove the constant noise from their areas. Others are concerned that job losses would blight West London as Heathrow directly employs over 76,000 people.”
Stewart added: “The bigger question is whether extra capacity is actually needed. Even at Heathrow nearly a quarter of flights are short-haul. If policies were in place to enable these passengers to switch to rail or do their business via video-conferencing, that would free up capacity for additional long-haul flights from the developing economies of Asia, Africa and South America. The question is not whether new capacity required but whether we are making the most intelligent use of existing capacity.”
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