More South East air capacity needed, says David Cameron
- 19 March 2012
- From the section England
The need for more airport capacity in the South East has been highlighted by Prime Minister David Cameron.
He said the UK needed to remain a key global hub and ministers would study the case for a Thames Estuary airport.
The government was making best use of existing capacity at Gatwick and Heathrow but decisions needed to be taken for the long-term, he added.
The coalition's aviation strategy would examine the "pros and cons" of a new estuary airport, he said.
In a speech setting out his vision for British infrastructure, he said: "I'm not blind to the need to increase airport capacity, particularly in the South East.
"We are acting now to make the best use of existing capacity - Gatwick is emerging as a business airport for London, under a new owner competing with Heathrow.
"But we need to retain our status as a key global hub for air travel, not just a feeder route to bigger airports elsewhere, in Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Dubai.
"Yes, this will be controversial. We will need to take decisions for the long-term - and we will be bringing forward options in our aviation strategy which will include an examination of the pros and cons of a new airport in the Thames Estuary."
Last week, Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Atlantic, called for a third runway to be built at Heathrow and said it was better to expand Heathrow than build an airport in the Thames Estuary.
He said a Thames Estuary airport could take 20 years to build and added: "In the meantime, Great Britain comes to to a full stop because there is no more capacity at Heathrow, Gatwick is pretty well full, and much of the business is now going to France and Germany."
Plans for a third Heathrow runway were scrapped two years ago.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening is expected to announce a new airport capacity review this month.