ITC says hub essential

The Independent Transport Commission (ITC) has published a report which says an expanded hub airport is essential to the UK’s continuing prosperity, and that Heathrow could be the best option.

The report, “Flying into the Future: Key issues for assessing Britain’s aviation infrastructure needs”, is based on the submissions received by the ITC in response to its Call for Evidence during Autumn 2012.

The Commission says its report confirms the crucial importance of good aviation connectivity for the UK economy and jobs, and that investing in our aviation infrastructure is a critical challenge that must be met if the UK is to maintain investment from growing
economies such as China and India.

It suggests that short-haul connectivity can be improved by developing regional airports, but that improving long-haul connectivity – and maintaining the UK’s position in the
face of growing competition from rival European airports – means ensuring that the UK
continues to have a top-tier European hub airport.

The ITC says this means an airport with significantly more capacity than the present Heathrow. It rules out two small hubs, or connecting different airports as a “virtual hub”, saying they would not compete effectively and would leave the UK increasingly dependent on connections via other hubs – such as Schiphol.

The report suggests the most likely sites for an improved hub are Heathrow, Stansted or the Thames Estuary.

The ITC agrees with Heathrow Airport that if a major new hub is developed at Stansted
or in the Thames Estuary, Heathrow will almost certainly have to close.

They also say that a new Estuary Airport is likely to have to charge twice the fees that an expanded Heathrow would, and two-thirds more than an expanded Stansted.

Expanding Stansted, or building a new Estuary airport, would also require a new town of the scale of Peterborough, which is an issue that requires more investigation, says the report, while noting that – even though noise is a large issue for Heathrow – a package of
measures including moving the runways westward and planning for quieter planes might enable Heathrow to provide the extra connectivity needed while also reducing noise.

The report is being submitted to the Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies.

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