London City expansion plan update

3 Oct 2015 by GrahamSmith

With 4.2 million passengers a year, London City is anxious to expand.

First up will be the long-awaited Western Pier extension, construction of which commenced in May (see news, May 27).

Bernard Lavelle, the airport's sales director, revealed how the work is progressing.

He said: "We are slowly closing down all of those gate lounges and opening up a brand new pier that will be triple the size of the current one, with open-plan gate spaces.

"We will have free wifi down there, some retail and food and beverage outlets, and an extra 650 seats. This will all be completed by June or July next year."

Western Pier

Artist's impression: How the Western Pier will look

Lavelle added: "We will be the first airport in the London area to take part in the LAMP [London Airspace Management Programme] project, which is where they are redesigning the airspace over London.

"This will mean aircraft are delivered more consistently into the airport and we will have faster knowledge of what aircraft are being delivered and when, so we can tell people which gate they need to go to much earlier."

Security is another part of the passenger experience that the airport is working on improving.

Lavelle said: "The Gen 2 project is all about lengthening the security lane – the science behind it has proved that if you make the lanes longer, and introduce specific points where passengers can enter and then offload bags and jackets, you can actually make the process more efficient and give people more space."

London City's ambitions don't end there, though, with Swiss planning to fly its new 125-seat Bombardier CSeries into LCY next year (see news, October 2).

But earlier this year, Mayor Boris Johnson rejected a £2 million expansion plan proposal (see news, March 2015), much to the frustration of Lavelle.

He said: "Back in 2009, the newly-elected Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, had his very first planning decision to make and that was whether or not to allow London City airport to increase the number of movements it could have a year from 76,000 to 120,000. The decision was a unanimous yes.

"Roll forward to 2015 and Boris Johnson is also the newly elected MP for Uxbridge – he has decided that he doesn't like Heathrow, and he doesn't like the noise associated with Heathrow and, therefore, as mayor can he allow London City airport to increase the number of movements it has and create extra noise.

"[We said] hang on, you already gave us those extra movements in 2009. All we are asking for is to put some additional concrete down that will allow us to take the Bombardier CSeries that's coming in.

"Although we will still be able to take the CSeries without that extra concrete, we wanted to add some new aircraft stands because we are getting busier.

"We want to take more CSeries going into the future, and other aircraft as well, so we want to increase the ability of our runway to have extra movements every hour and to do that you have to add a parallel taxiway."

Lavelle added: "We also want to add more terminal space so passengers have a more luxurious journey through the airport. However, all of that was put in a 'holding pattern', so to speak, so we put in an appeal.

"Our application actually went through to our local government, the London Borough of Newham, who have been working with us for the last two years up to the point where we could submit our application.

"They then approved it – with 102 conditions – and it went to the mayor's office. The mayor's own advisors and planning officers, up to the night before, said 'yes', but something like an hour before the time limit, the mayor decided we are not going to have it. He over-rode local democracy and said no.

"So we have another appeal going on. There will be a public enquiry in March next year and we expect a decision some time next summer or autumn."

Lavelle said of the expansion plan: "It is a good project for London, for east London and for the passengers that fly through London City – we will be able to increase the amount of space in the airport and we will be able to take more passengers and still deliver what we do today, which is a fast transit through the airport."

Jenny Southan

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