A report from the Greater London Assembly says it is not certain that a new airport is needed.
The report says that airports in the South East could grow passenger numbers by using their capacity in a “smarter way”.
It says that only 47% of runway capacity at Stansted Airport was used during 2012, and suggests that improving transport between airports, to encourage switching flights via central London, could help in reducing the need to build more runways.
This point of view is at odds with the Mayor of London, and with those who support the concept of a ‘hub’ airport, where passengers change planes at a single airport, and airlines aggegate traffic from feeder routes on to larger longhaul planes. Most people inside the aviation industry support a ‘hub’ as the best way to maintain the UK’s position in the global aviation economy.
They say expecting passengers to go from Heathrow to Stansted, even by direct high speed rail, is unrealistic, and would result in the shifting of such traffic to Amsterdam or other european airports.
Commenting on the report, Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, said: “The assembly is right that there is capacity for more flights at some of London’s airports – London is open for business, but it could be more so.
“The extra capacity will fill quickly and capacity constraints at Heathrow – which is full – in turn restrict choice for airlines and passengers now; as do the arcane constraints on Stansted and Gatwick which limit their flexibility to compete for growth.
“Ultimately, we need at least two further runways somewhere in the South East, but in the immediate future we need to free up Stansted and Gatwick to compete and to use Heathrow’s two runways more intensively so that we can create the best conditions for the London and the UK’s growth.”