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MPs prefer Heathrow expansion to new airport development

10 May 13 The House of Commons transport select committee has thrown its weight behind the construction of a new runway at Heathrow and rejected proposals for a whole new airport east of London.

A new airport in the Thames estuary was described as unnecessary by committee chairman Louise Ellman, while additional capacity at Gatwick and Stansted would not be enough to address future needs.

Mrs Ellman, who is MP for Liverpool Riverside, said: “We recognise that demand for air travel across the UK is forecast to grow, believe that aviation should be permitted to expand and accept that more capacity is necessary to accommodate sustainable aviation growth.

“We looked closely at the three main options by which the UK could increase its hub airport capacity. Research we commissioned made plain that building an entirely new hub airport east of London could not be done without huge public investment in new ground transport infrastructure. Evidence to our inquiry also showed a substantial potential impact on wildlife habitat in the Thames estuary.

“The viability of an estuary hub airport would also require the closure of Heathrow – a course of action that would have unacceptable consequences for individuals, businesses in the vicinity of the existing airport and the local economy.

“Heathrow – the UK’s only hub airport – has been short of capacity for a decade and is currently operating at full capacity. We conclude that a third runway at Heathrow is necessary,  but also suggest that a four-runway proposal may have merit, especially if expanding to locate two new runways westwards from the current site could curb the noise experienced by people affected under the flight path.

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“We conclude that adding new runways to expand a number of other existing airports will not, on its own, provide a long-term solution to the hub capacity problem. We do however encourage Gatwick’s operator to develop a robust business case for their vision of a second runway.

“We reject the notion of linking existing airports by high-speed rail to form a split-hub; the outcome from this would be highly uncompetitive in terms of passenger transfer times compared to competitor hubs overseas.

The committee also called on the government to establish a national scheme to ensure adequate compensation for people affected by noise from expansion at Heathrow, and to develop a strategy to improve road and rail access to major airports.

The full report can be viewed at http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-committees/transport/Aviation%20Strategy%20Volume%20I%20.pdf

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