Heathrow expansion won't be enough as London's airports will near capacity by 2025, warn business leaders

Rebecca Smith
London City Airport envisages handling eight million passengers by 2030
London City Airport envisages handling eight million passengers by 2030 (Source: Getty)

Heathrow’s third runway will not be enough to support growing demand as all of the capital’s airports will be stretched near capacity by 2025, business leaders warned today.

A new report by London First calls on the government to push forward with an aviation strategy that helps support growth and competition, by looking at flight movement limits and removing artificial caps on growth, such as those at Stansted. This would enable the airport to provide capacity for around an additional seven to nine million passengers a year.

It notes “clear demand” for further runway capacity in the south east beyond the third runway, and says proposals for future expansion at the capital’s airports should also be enabled to come forward in “a far more timely and market-based way”.

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Richard Dilks, transport director at London First, said:

Government’s backing for expansion at Heathrow was hugely welcome and a significant boost to British business, but it took 50 years to get to this stage.

Government has to step up and help get the UK into the best possible shape ahead of Brexit, by supporting investment and recognising that the UK’s global standing requires action beyond building a vital new runway at Heathrow.

The business group flagged the importance of improvements on links to the airport, notably rail, saying business case development should take place on a new Crossrail station at London City Airport.

Other rail links considered crucial were investment in the Brighton main line as a “vital link” for City commuters and Gatwick passengers, and the confirmation of Western rail access to Heathrow.

While passenger experience has "improved considerably" in recent years thanks to significant investment by the airports, the report said more could be done to ensure “a high quality at our borders”. Long queues and inefficient processes need to be clamped down on, as they send “a terrible signal to people wanting to come to the UK to visit or do business”.

The five largest airports in London and the south east account for around 150m passengers annually, and the capital attracts more international overnight visitors than any other city in the world. The report says it is the UK’s “international gateway for talent, tourists and investment”.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said:

Delivering new runway capacity in the south east is vital to the future of the UK, boosting our economy and our position on the world stage.

We are working with Heathrow and TfL to give passengers the best possible access and just last week plans were announced to increase Elizabeth Line services to the airport, including new trains to Terminal 5.

We want to improve transport links to help our airports grow and we are committed to the £15bn Crossrail programme, which will serve Heathrow and the £6bn Thameslink upgrades which will benefit Gatwick.

Read more: Crossrail is officially coming to Heathrow Terminal 5

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