Six regional airports expected by the government to gain links to Heathrow once a third runway at the London hub is built have been named.
New connections are due to be provided to an expanded Heathrow from Belfast International, Liverpool, Newquay, Prestwick, Humberside and Durham Tees Valley by 2030, bringing the total to 14.
The eight existing Heathrow domestic routes cover Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, Belfast City, Manchester, Newcastle and Leeds Bradford.
The expanded connectivity requirement on Heathrow emerged as the industry responded favourably as transport secretary Chris Grayling outlined plans for a public consultation on a new runway plus a blueprint for improving the UK’s airspace infrastructure.
New capacity available at Heathrow once a third runway is in operation from 2025 will also allow connections to up to 40 more long haul destinations, such as Wuhan, Osaka and Quito, according to the airport.
However, research commissioned by the Department for Transport suggested expansion Heathrow may result in about 115,000 years of healthy life being lost in the area, according to The Times.
The study, by consultants, said that the biggest threats were posed by poor air quality, the demolition of homes and excess noise from traffic and aircraft.
Noise and loss of sleep could expose householders to a 24 per cent higher risk of a stroke and 21 per cent increase in heart disease, it claimed.
A separate report admitted that a northwest runway could delay compliance with Britain’s promise to get air quality levels within legal limits.
The two reports, submitted by consultants WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, raised concern that the effect on health of Heathrow’s new 3,500m runway may have been worse than stated.
The DfT insisted that many of the environmental measures being proposed would all but wipe out the fears raised in the consultants’ reports. This includes a ban on flights for several hours each night, a commitment to ensure that more than half of people reach the airport by public transport, more than £1 billion spent on noise insulation for homes and limits on aircraft noise.
John Stewart, chairman of anti-Heathrow expansion group Hacan, said it was important that the government assessed the consultation “in an even-handed way” and rejected the plan if the expected impact on issues such as noise was found to be “too great”.
Grayling said: “By backing the north-west runway at Heathrow airport and publishing our proposals, we are sending a clear signal that when we leave the EU, we are open for business.”
Liverpool John Lennon Airport welcomed the publication of the government’s airports national policy statement which it said recognised the importance of a link from Merseyside to an expanded Heathrow.
The statement makes it clear that expansion of Heathrow and the new capacity created by a third runway, will be a growth engine for the whole of the UK, supporting new domestic air connections to underserved regions including Liverpool.
Capacity constraints in the south-east have meant that the opportunity to re-establish regular flights from Liverpool to the UK’s main hub airport has simply not existed for some time.
Liverpool airport CEO Andrew Cornish said: “The government has clearly set out that it will hold Heathrow airport to account on securing a number of new domestic routes to regions currently underserved including Liverpool, as part of the expansion of Heathrow and the new capacity created by a third runway.
“We have been a long-time supporter of Heathrow’s plans for a third runway and will respond to the government’s consultation supporting the need to secure these new domestic links, knowing that regional airports such as Liverpool can benefit by the future opening up of access to the UK’s hub airport for improved worldwide connectivity.”
American Express Global Business Travel EMEA managing director Elyes Mrad: “We are one small step closer. If the UK is to remain competitive on the international stage the extra capacity will be crucial.
“There will inevitably be opponents doing all they can to halt progress, and building work may not start for some time.
“But if Britain is serious about its future as a standalone trading nation – one which negotiates its own agreements outside the EU, the single market and customs union – it simply needs the space and flexibility to satisfy the demands of UK PLC’s travelling community.
“These are islands, and they are dependent upon connections by air and sea with the rest of the world.”
Dale Keller, chief executive of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK: “The draft airports national policy statement is welcomed by our airline members as a pivotal point in unlocking progress on delivering a bigger, better and more affordable Heathrow that will best serve the future needs of our customers and the whole nation.”
British Airline Pilots Association general secretary Brian Strutton: “We welcome the government’s confirmed commitment to expanding Heathrow as recommended by the Davies [Airports] Commission.
“Decisions – and actions – on expanding airport capacity are long overdue. We are also pleased that the government has announced that it is preparing a new UK aviation strategy.
“Recognition of the role that aviation plays as a driver for the UK economy would be welcome.
“We also urge the minister to ensure that the skilled and dedicated people, including pilots, who make our vital industry tick are not forgotten, and, indeed, are put at the heart of his new aviation strategy.”
Royal Aeronautical Society air traffic management panel chairman David McMillan: “Despite significant growth in demand for airspace and rapid advancement of aircraft technologies, the fundamental structure of the UK’s invisible infrastructure has changed little over the past 50 years.
“As a consequence, airspace use over some areas of the country has become so intense that the architecture has become economically and environmentally inefficient and causes concern for communities surrounding airports.
“The aviation sector is expected to increase the number of routes serving the UK to support economic growth while meeting local population demand for air transport to cause less disturbance to their locality – creating conflicting objectives that has slowed and frustrated the pace of change for too long.
“The consultation on airspace modernisation is a step in the right direction towards providing the aviation sector with the political support and freedom to modernise its operations to deliver faster journeys and to minimise the environmental impact of its operations, as well as giving local communities more certainty over what to expect when new proposals for airspace improvement that would benefit the whole country are brought forward.
“At the end of the consultation process, it will be important for the government to put in place a clear framework within which the Civil Aviation Authority and the aviation industry can work effectively with local communities.”
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