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Thames Estuary airport not viable, says business report
BUILDING an airport in the Thames Estuary is not a viable option to increase the south east’s aviation capacity, according to a business report.
An airport study, written by Parsons Brinckerhof for the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), said that while an airport in the Thames Estuary was “a grand and ambitious scheme” it would not be a short or medium term solution.
The hub airport would take too long to deliver, be too costly, could lead to the closure of Heathrow, and is in the “very worst spot” in terms of air traffic control, the report said.
The report insisted there is a need to improve the south east’s aviation capacity, and quickly, as the country loses out on businesses to better developed countries.
It said: “International and global businesses are ‘portable’ and there is a significant risk that London’s airport capacity could be constrained, resulting in businesses either choosing to set up elsewhere within Europe or relocating their existing operations close to other major European hub airports.”
In the short term, the report said, existing capacity – for up to 70million passengers – could be maximised, while planning caps could be lifted and airlines encouraged to fly from other airports to free up long-haul slots at Heathrow.
The report championed a third runway at Heathrow long term.
SELEP Chairman John Spence said: “We do not believe that a hub airport in the Thames Estuary is a viable short or medium term solution.
“It is vitally important that the government look at the capacity issues at Heathrow and Gatwick to address the situation now.”
Transport economics expert at the University of Kent, professor Roger Vickerman, welcomed the report.
He said: “This conclusion is undoubtedly right given the inordinate time we take to plan major infrastructure in the UK. A third runway at Heathrow is probably the only way to achieve this, and even that would probably take at least 15 years.
Prof Vickerman added that there may still need to be a long term replacement for Heathrow, which has “five scattered terminals” and “cannot present itself as a genuine integrated hub”.
He said: “It is an airport which people will avoid if possible and that will lead to the long-term relative decline of the connectivity of the UK to the rest of the world.”
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