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Cardiff expansion tops poll of airport capacity options

A proposal for the expansion of Cardiff Airport has been chosen as the preferred measure to increase the UK’s airport capacity in an influential web poll.

The plan, drawn up by the transport group Western Gateway, received more than half of the votes on the poll on industry website GlobalAirportCities.com

The site is an online community for visitors to the annual Airport Cities World conference and exhibition – and for aeroplane enthusiasts.

Included in the poll were 11 of the 29 proposals for long-term solutions to airport capacity problems submitted to the Airports Commission, the government body examining the UK’s airport space.

Cardiff’s involves the airport becoming Heathrow’s “Atlantic terminal”, which would mean the return of long-haul routes to the airport.

The poll had originally launched with 10 proposals but the Cardiff  plan was belatedly included after the website was approached by independent group Fly Cardiff, the group which aims to attract more airlines and business into Cardiff airport.

Despite being added 24 hours after the poll’s launch, Western Gateway’s proposal for Cardiff secured 54% of the vote when it closed.

It beat plans by the likes of Birmingham Airport, which had 12% of the vote.

Kelvin Hayes, Lawrence Evans and John Dellarmi (corr), the three independent founders of Fly Cardiff, said it was imperative for Wales and the rest of the UK that Cardiff gained more long-haul routes.

In a statement, they said: “There has been much hype in the media that Cardiff Airport could become Heathrow Terminal Six, but for Welsh passengers it is not so much of a proposal as an essential requirement.

“Welsh passengers want routes back across the Atlantic, to the UAE and beyond.

“And with the recent landing of the A380, the world’s largest aircraft, at Cardiff Airport, many passengers are asking how long it can be before there is greater access to international travel.”

The plan for the airport proposed the addition of a third UK high-speed rail connection to Cardiff Airport, alongside the two already planned by the UK Government.

The third rail connection could link to a network of airports supporting the south of the UK, easing pressure on Heathrow and providing faster connectivity throughout the country, Western Gateway said.

Meanwhile an extended runway would accommodate larger aircraft and improved terminal and infrastructure facilities would help Cardiff to significantly increase its capacity for up to 20 million passengers by 2040.

But a spokesman for Heathrow said the strengths of its airport as a single hub should be built on instead.

He said: “After half a century of vigorous debate but little action, it is clear the UK needs a single hub airport that can provide the links to emerging economies which will boost jobs, GDP and trade.

“The best solution for taxpayers, passengers and business is to build on the strength we already have at Heathrow.

“Our proposals show that vision can be achieved whilst keeping the impact on local residents to an absolute minimum.”

The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, will produce a final report no later than the summer of 2015.

Plans for Cardiff Airport, backed by entrepreneur Rudi Plaut, economist Brian Morgan, transport experts Stuart Cole and Martin Evans, and management consultancy Mandix, were submitted last month.

Making their case for the airport to be expanded to become the “South West National Airport” they said: “Cardiff is the optimal location.

“There is minimal resistance to development and wide support for expansion offering considerable advantages in cost and procurement whilst, after considering local multiplier effects, development based on the HS3 scenario could generate an estimated 55,500 jobs.”

The Western Gateway proposal would involve £18bn investment in rail infrastructure between London and the Cardiff region and £6.5bn of improvements to the airport, rolling stock and connections.

Construction would take at least 15 years on top of the planning phase.

The Welsh Government purchased Cardiff Airport for £52m from Spanish infrastructure company Abertis in March.

First Minister Carwyn Jones said: “We do believe that it would be possible to support a reasonably frequent transatlantic service.

“We believe there are other long-haul routes that could be developed as well.

“The runway at Cardiff has sufficient capacity, and I think it’s right to say it can take a fully-loaded A380 and just about anything else, and of course it has a 24-hour operation.”

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