var _gaq = _gaq || []; _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-41362908-1']); _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']); (function() { var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true; ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://' : 'http://') + ''; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s); })();
Home / Latest News / What are the options for increased UK airport hub capacity?

What are the options for increased UK airport hub capacity?

The  issue of airport hub capacity in the UK is currently being looked at by an Airports Commission led by Sir Howard Davies which has to report on long term options for the UK after the next UK election in 2015.

The commission is currently looking at submissions from airports and other stakeholders in the UK all with their own particular project or idea to promote.

What happens in the south east of England is of great importance to us here in Wales.

If we don’t get a re-balancing of airline capacity in the UK, the majority of us in South Wales will continue to have to travel to England to access air travel, particularly long haul air travel.

 If the major hub airport for the UK moves from Heathrow that may involve a longer, more difficult surface journey or may involve more of us starting our journey from Cardiff Airport to transfer through a hub, which may be in the UK or it may be at Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt or Dublin.

To ensure that this article fits within the newspaper I will have to discard some of the more exotic ideas such as electromagnetic assisted takeoffs (similar to an aircraft carrier) and the concept where the aircraft moves through the terminal unloading, loading and being serviced as it goes and concentrate on the major decisions to be made.

Neither am I going to review the various surface access improvements suggested that would connect some or all of London’s airports and promote interlining between airports in the London area including a suggestion that each airport would focus on one part of the globe.

We are in this position because our current international hub airport is 98% full A lot more airlines would like to fly from there but can’t. the solution seems simple, just build more runways until capacity meets demand.

Unfortunately Heathrow is located on a constrained site and it isn’t possible to build a third and then a fourth runway without displacing people and businesses that are currently outside of the existing airport boundary.

That might be acceptable if adequate compensation were to be paid if you can overlook that Heathrow is just in the wrong place to grow further. Aircraft have to arrive and depart over central London and more people are affected by aircraft noise at Heathrow than at all the other airports in Europe combined.

We move on to the next obvious solution when you have a major international airport on a constrained site where the city has grown around it.

Close Heathrow and open a new airport further out from the city in a more acceptable location. It has happened in Paris and Hong Kong and other major cities around the world but for the last forty years we have found that decision too difficult to make.

The options are either an airport in the Thames Estuary, the so called Boris Island, but there are numerous suggested sites besides those proposed by Transport for London, some of them with names that nostalgically recall previous airport consultations.

Secondly, building up to four runways at an existing airport, Stansted, avoiding the difficulties of trying to build an airport on a Greenfield site.

Thirdly, building a brand new airport in Oxfordshire between Abingdon and Didcot was proposed by two different submissions.

Any solution for replacing Heathrow has to take into account the 80,000 people who depend on Heathrow for employment and the major companies who have located around Heathrow for connectivity or because they provide services linked to air transport.

The conventional solution would be a new airport on the west side of London allowing those employees and companies easy access to the new airport. Although proposals in the Abingdon/Didcot area are on the right side of London, building a new airport in that location will inevitably lead to a high level of local opposition.

The estuary airport proposals would have less impact on local populations, being in isolated locations, but the impact on employment and company location would be huge.

The continued operation of Heathrow would not be possible forcing 80,000 people out of work or facing a difficult journey across London and impacting on the location of some of our most important companies.

It would make the major hub airport in the UK more remote for most of the UK and lead to more short haul flying as the best way to access the new airport.

An expansion of Stansted and possibly a second runway at Gatwick could provide more capacity in the London area but are again likely to receive a large amount of opposition, both through planning and construction.

What if the building of new airports and runways in the south east of England is just too difficult, regardless of what the Airports Commission decides?

Birmingham, Manston and Western Gateway using Cardiff Airport have all put forward similar arguments for utilising existing capacity away from London using high speed rail links to access the major market of London whilst providing better connectivity for the local area.

It avoids having to displace companies and employment from around Heathrow but allows air traffic to grow on the busiest routes away from environmental and airspace constraints.

An expanded Heathrow or Heathrow relocated to Oxfordshire are the only options that would restrict the growth of Cardiff Airport.

If Heathrow remains but is constrained then Cardiff will grow. If Heathrow closes and is relocated then Cardiff will have to be connected by air to the new hub.

However, I suspect that whatever recommendation is made, either closing or expanding Heathrow will be a decision too politically difficult to make.

Martin Evans is visiting fellow at the University of South Wales and a member of the Western Gateway Group.

Check Also

Pedestrian hit by vehicle on Castle Street in Cardiff

A pedestrian has been hit by a vehicle on a busy Cardiff street. South Wales …