Business leaders across the North-East have welcomed plans to expand Britain’s largest airport, claiming any extra capacity at Heathrow would “galvanise” the region’s reputation.
London’s busiest airport has unveiled three options for its controversial third runway. Each will allow Heathrow to increase flights from 480,000 to 740,000 a year and, combined with a new sixth terminal, will almost double passenger numbers to 130 million.
Alongside the proposals, Heathrow wants to ensure that the whole of the UK benefits from its expansion. For the North-East, that would open the doors for airlines to offer more Newcastle to Heathrow flights with onward international connections
“It is critical for the UK economy that we retain our premier hub position within the world aviation market and Heathrow is the UK’s national hub,” said Graeme Mason, planning and corporate affairs director at Newcastle International Airport.
“Our Heathrow service is the biggest single connection we have, around 500,000 passengers a year use it, so it is critical that it is maintained and grows.”
That, he added, is why his airport authority participated in the Davies Commission public evidence process.
“We expressed our support for Heathrow, but also asked the commission to consider ways of ensuring that extra runway capacity can be used to safeguard access for regional air services, possibly by moderating the charging structure so that regional services and carriers can afford to take off and land.”
Mark Stephenson is policy team leader at the North-East Chamber of Commerce. “It is time decision-makers treated Heathrow for what it is,” he said, “a national asset that generates wealth and assures jobs across the whole country.”
Last month business leaders from the region joined their nationwide counterparts to demand the Government end “decades of dithering” on Heathrow. They claimed a failure to commit to any expansion risked condemning the UK to being a second-rate economy until at least 2040.
The warning came at the launch of Let Britain Fly, a campaign aimed at pressurising MPs to avert the UK’s “looming air capacity crunch”.
It also wants a pledge from whichever party wins the next general election to act on the findings of the Whitehall-appointed Airports Commission, led by former Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies. His report is not expected until the summer of 2015.
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