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NEWS Last modified on April 30, 2013

City authority spotlights spare capacity at London airports

In a report on city’s air links, the London Assembly’s Transport Committee has questioned the need to expand capacity at London's gateways.

Despite London’s rising air traffic, the London gateways of Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted could all accept more flights, says the London Assembly’s Transport Committee.

The committee’s report – Airport Capacity in London – even suggests Heathrow could accommodate 20 million more passengers by switching to larger aircraft, despite 99% of the hub’s slots being full.

Meanwhile, Gatwick has 12% of its slots available, Luton 51% and Stansted 47%, said the committee.

In addition, the committee suggested a lack of flights to emerging economies could reflect weak demand for these destinations.

As passengers for London airports are largely drawn from nearby regions, their preferences may dictate routes, the committee argued.

About 85 million of 127 million travellers through London gateways in 2010 came from East or South East England, found the report.

Caroline Pidgeon, chair of the committee, suggested better use of existing airport capacity could be “an intelligent cost-effective alternative to building new airports or runways”.

“The need for additional hub capacity is also under debate, with strong data showing rather than runway capacity limiting airlines ability to fly to emerging markets, it could be low passenger demand from each airport’s geographical area,” she said.

The committee also echoed recent comments from Gatwick in querying Heathrow’s hub role, as 78% of travellers from London flew point-to-point in 2010, according to the report.

From Heathrow, 75% of flights are also short haul, said the committee.

But the report highlighted how improved rail and public transport to Gatwick, Luton and Stansted could encourage travellers to switch from Heathrow.

Stansted suggests it could attract 1.5 million more passengers a year if the rail journey to central London were cut from 45 minutes down to 30 minutes, according to the report.

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