A group of MPs has called for an interim solution to be found to increase capacity at Heathrow to plug the gap while plans for a long-term hub airport are considered.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Aviation said that capacity constraints at Heathrow were already “restricting the UK’s economic potential” in its Inquiry into Aviation Policy and Air Passenger Duty report published today.
“The UK’s hub airport is a nationally strategic asset that should by supported by the government,” said the report. “All efforts should be made to ensure the UK retains and grows hub capacity, whether that entails further capacity at Heathrow, or a new purpose-built hub airport.”
The group said that while this debate on a long-term plan is going on, there should be an “immediate interim solution” looking at ways to increase capacity at Heathrow including the lifting of some flight restrictions and the possible use of nearby RAF Northolt.
It recommends that the government should carry out “a full assessment of the impact of mixed mode use of Heathrow’s runways and of using the existing runway at Northolt more effectively”.
Mixed mode flying involves using both of Heathrow’s runways for landing and taking off at the same time. Air traffic controller NATS estimates that using mixed mode and easing night restrictions would increase Heathrow’s capacity by 15 per cent but this would be unpopular with residents living under the flight path in west London.
The MPs also recommend that Heathrow’s 7,000 private business flights per year could be moved to Farnborough to create capacity for more services to UK regions which have lost their services to Heathrow and also the introduction of new long-haul flights to emerging nations including the BRIC countries.
“This will help to mitigate the capacity constraints currently being felt at the UK hub, and allow the UK to maintain its global leadership in aviation until a long-term aviation policy and runway capacity solution is reached,” said the report.
The government is due to release its consultation document during the autumn into how to increase air capacity in the south-east but this process has been twice postponed this year amid reports of fierce disagreements over Heathrow’s third runway.
Government policy is still against any third runway at Heathrow – a point emphasised by both transport secretary Justine Greening and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg yesterday.
The MPs group is also calling for an “economic analysis” to be carried out on the impact that APD is having on UK growth and employment which should report to the Treasury before next year’s budget in March.
“There was some statistical and considerable anecdotal evidence received regarding UK residents and overseas visitors changing their itineraries in order to avoid APD, with many increasingly routing via Amsterdam,” added the report.
Report by Rob Gill
This report was originally published on Business Traveller‘s sister website abtn.co.uk.