More runway capacity will be needed in the southeast of England to cope with future demand, according to Airports Commission chairman Sir Howard Davies.
Outlining the commission’s “developing views” on the UK’s future airport capacity needs, he made it clear that a hub airport was needed.
Sir Howard said: “Our provisional conclusion is that we will need some net additional runway capacity in the southeast of England in the coming decades.
“To rely only on runways currently in operation would be likely to produce a distinctly sub-optimal solution for passengers, connectivity and the economy and would also almost certainly not be the best solution in terms of minimising the overall carbon impact of flights and travel to and from airports.”
He added: “A mechanism for managing the carbon impacts of aviation will be needed if the UK is to achieve its statutory carbon targets – just as it will in other countries. This is the case whether new runway capacity is provided in the south east or not.”
The Commission is preparing to publish an interim report in December that Sir Howard said would contain a shortlist of options to increase capacity in the long term. A final report will be published no later than summer 2015.
He told the Financial Times that he believed the UK needed a hub airport to help ensure that airlines can profitably operate a broad range of long-haul routes.
The commission’s “emerging thinking” says that pressure on the UK’s busiest airports is likely to continue to grow “even if we take a more conservative view of future aviation demand than the Department for Transport has in the past. This is likely to see levels of future demand in excess of capacity in the southeast of England airport system.
“Importantly, this appears to be the case even if future aviation demand is constrained in order to meet the government’s legislated climate change objectives,” the commission adds.
“It is difficult to see how the market alone could resolve the capacity/demand imbalance in the southeast. Regional airports are already serving their local markets effectively but it is difficult to see how they can absorb all the excess demand.
“The tools available to government to influence the location of flights are also very limited.
“Taken together, these considerations point to the need for new runway infrastructure in the southeast of England in the coming decades.”
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