Essex: Transport Secretary Justine Greening opens London Southend Airport

A NEW airport passenger terminal which could play a role in the expansion of UK aviation has been officially opened.

The terminal at London Southend Airport will create 500 jobs, operate 70 services per week and transport two million passengers each year by 2020.

Previously, Southend Airport was a small local airport, operating only infrequent flights.

The new facility was opened by Transport Secretary Justine Greening today. She said it was an example of how regional airports can contribute towards economic growth, at a time of growing debate over the need for a new hub in the London area.

Ms Greening said: “The current debate on the future of aviation in our country as a whole has focused on hubs such as Heathrow and Gatwick.

“Our regional airports have an absolutely vital part to play in making sure the aviation sector remains competitive and continues to serve businesses and the community.”

Asked to comment on the debate around the need for a new hub, including controversial plans for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, she insisted existing UK airports were well placed particularly in providing flights to the far east.

Most Read

But Ms Greening added: “Any decision will need careful consideration. If you were starting from scratch today, you would not put Heathrow where it is, and we need to look at how we can keep a competitive edge going forward.”

The terminal, complete with new control tower and runway, is described as the biggest airport development in the South East for decades.

The Stobart Group, which owns the airport, says it has invested �100million in the terminal.

Alastair Welch, managing director of Stobart Air, said: “We are never going to be Heathrow and we don’t want to be. We want to retain our focus on customer services and we never want passengers to spend more than four minutes at security or take longer than 15 minutes from aircraft to station platform.”

EasyJet will begin operating 70 services, including flights to Amsterdam, Alicante, Barcelona, Belfast and Malaga, next month.

Carolyn McCall, chief executive of easyJet, said: “As the first new airport capacity in the South East for decades, London Southend is much needed. It is a brilliant new facility with fantastic transport links to London.”