NEWS Last modified on May 1, 2013

Business group backs Heathrow in London hub debate

A London Assembly report questioning the need to expand London’s airport capacity has been blasted by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI).

Airport Capacity in London, a report from the London Assembly’s Transport Committee, claims that Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton and Stansted have spare capacity.

Using current airport capacity better could be “an intelligent, cost-effective alternative to building new airports or runways”, argued the report.

In addition, London gateways’ poor connectivity with emerging markets could also reflect lack of demand rather than limited capacity, the report added.

But Colin Stanbridge, LCCI’s chief executive, said London needs better links to emerging markets and sees a vital role for Heathrow.

“The long-term challenge for London is how to secure and develop new routes to where business people need to get to. That requires frequent, daily, direct flights to important emerging markets. Heathrow, as a hub airport, supplies that connectivity.”

While the LCCI backs proposals for a third runway at Heathrow, as a short-term measure it has suggested an increase in night flights.

Responding to the London Assembly report, a Heathrow Airport spokesperson claimed the Transport Committee had overlooked the role of transfer passengers in sustaining long-haul routes.

"The London Assembly is right that the UK does not have a shortage of capacity at point to point airports like Gatwick or Stansted. It has a shortage of hub airport capacity,” said the spokesperson.

A hub airport is the “only way to connect to the emerging economies so vital for UK trade, jobs and economic growth”, added the spokesperson.

But the Transport Committee’s chair, Caroline Pidgeon, strongly opposed any expansion at Heathrow in a statement yesterday to announce the new report.

“As 700,000 residents already suffer from noise pollution as a result of Heathrow flights, we also hope that any plans to expand Heathrow can soon be laid to rest,” she said.

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