Transport secretary reveals details of airport review

Aircraft in flight Justine Greening has revealed details of the plans for the forthcoming aviation discussion paper

The transport secretary has told us it's time to have a proper "fact based debate" about the future of airport capacity in Britain and in particular, the South East.

"There aren't any easy answers," says Justine Greening.

"It's a very complex question but we need to get on with a process which helps resolve these issues."

Later this month she will launch a discussion paper which will try to tackle this political hot potato once and for all.

Future demand

During a visit to Southend Airport to open its new terminal she gave us an insight into her thinking.

"We've got to make sure there is the level of capacity at our airports that we need, not just in the next 10 to 15 years but the next 20 to 30 years."

Start Quote

Justine Greening

We've got to make sure there is the level of capacity at our airports that we need - not just in the next 10 to 15 years but the next 20 to 30 years”

End Quote Justine Greening Conservative, transport secretary

"We are getting to the stage where there is a question mark over whether we've got the capacity to meet the country's needs."

"In the short term we've always been clear that we need to make the most of the capacity we do have.

"We need to use what we've got better and more effectively and we're looking at how we do that, but we also need to look ahead."

And it's that concern that has prompted the consultation.

Ms Greening does not want to prejudice proceedings but says the debate must be based on "real facts and figures and details around logistics, operations and airspace - then we'll have some of the information we need to make the right decision".

She will not be drawn on whether the ultimate conclusion of this consultation will be a call for more runways or a new airport but she does rule out a third runway at Heathrow which is "not the right answer".

Proposals to build a new airport in the Thames are met with a more sanguine response.

"This is the time for people to bring forward proposals on this issue," she says.

Coping with capacity

The aviation industry has been pushing for some time for the government to tackle this issue.

"There is a capacity issue in the South East - it's probably a bit late but now is the time to do it," says Carolyn McCall, chief executive of Easyjet.

Interior of aircraft The capacity issue in the South East is to be addressed by the review

"There is a real opportunity to have an aviation policy which is long term and which addresses the need for a hub airport but also looks at needs elsewhere."

The transport secretary was opening the new £100 million terminal at Southend Airport.

Next month Easyjet will launch services to nine European destinations, and other airlines are expected to move in as well.

"This is a real vote of confidence in Southend," said Ms Greening, who pointed out that this bit of airport expansion has created 500 extra jobs.

It's also the first piece of airport expansion in the South East for more than 20 years.

Southend hopes to handle two million passengers a year.

That will help ease capacity in the South East but it won't solve the problem.

That's for Ms Greening to work out.

Deborah McGurran Article written by Deborah McGurran Deborah McGurran Political editor, East of England

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  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Or how about we DON'T keep adding to capacity and cramming ever more jets into the skies over the South East.

    London has six airports already: Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, London City and Southend.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Manston would certainly seem a reasonable alternative, but if an airport to north of London was required, there are a number of idle RAF bases available for investment. RAF Wittering and RAF Alconbury spring to mind. Both are now non-flying establishments, both are right alongside the A! trunk road.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Why not invest in Manston Airport. It has one of the longest runways in the south east, has railway links that can be upgraded, and sits in virtually the same Thames Estuary territory. A third runway at LHR is no long term answer, and a new Thames Estuary airport will probable cost as much if not more than the ludicrous proposal for high speed rail to the midlands.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Tim Yeo is right . The 3rd runway is the only sensible solution on cost , infrastructure ,timetable , avaialbilty of staff , access to industry and where peopl want to be and fly from. The Estuary project is a non starter.Too expensive, too slow, an ecological disaster not where anybody is or wants to be.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    It is ridiculous for Tim Yeo to press for a re-opening of the case for a third runway at LHR. Flying today's level of traffic over London is mad, to allow the density to increase is insane. If UK Ltd is going to remain the major hub , a new airport in the Thames Estuary with fast access into central London, a la Hong Kong makes the most sense. Of course it would be expensive, but we should do it.



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