Next government ‘must consider second runway at Stansted’, says IoD

An aerial view of Stansted Airport.

An aerial view of Stansted Airport. - Credit: Archant

The option of building a second runway at Stansted Airport should return to the political agenda immediately following the General Election, according to a leading business organisation.

The main terminal building at Stansted Airport.

The main terminal building at Stansted Airport. - Credit: Archant

The Institue of Directors (IoD) says that, with a third runway at Heathrow Airport not due to be completed until 2028 and traffic growing fast at Gatwick and Stansted, a new Airports Commission should be established by the new government immediately, with a brief to report back in a year.

As the previous Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, came down against a fourth runway being added at Heathrow, any further increase in runway capacity in the South-East is likely to involve either Gatwick or Stansted – or possibly both.

In the latest in a series of “Business Manifesto” publications, this one entitled Future-proofing Infrastructure, the IoD says: “The decision on a third runway at Heathrow has been made. It has taken so long and won’t even be ready until towards the end of the next decade, so it’s important to start preparing now for two new runways. Gatwick is more or less full and Stansted will be by 2027.

“That’s why we are calling for a new Airports Commission 2.0. Its mandate will be to answer the question: where could up to two new runways be built at the lowest cost to the taxpayer, to the maximum competition-enhancing benefit of passengers and airlines, and in the quickest possible time?”

An artist's impression of the new arrivals building planned at Stansted Airport, with the existing t

An artist's impression of the new arrivals building planned at Stansted Airport, with the existing terminal to the left. - Credit: Archant

The report, written by Dan Lewis, senior adviser on infrastructure policy at the IoD, adds that, with Gatwick already close to capacity, Stansted Airport can “make the greatest difference” in the short-term.

Stansted’s current annual passenger total of around 24.5m – the 25m mark is expected to be reached soon, due to an expanded summer 2017 schedule – is still well with the airport’s current planning permission for up to 35m passengers a year, which a planned new arrivals hall will help it to accommodate.

However, the existing runway could be used by enough flights for the airport to handle up to around 45m passengers a year, although this would require fresh planning consent.

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The IoD report says that, while lifting this cap would enable Stansted to handle an extra 20m passengers a year, compared with current levels, the aiport’s “Achilles’ heel” at present is the 55-minute rail journey time to London.

Take-off of the inaugural Jet2holidays flight from Stansted to Faro earlier this year.
Photo: Tony

Take-off of the inaugural Jet2holidays flight from Stansted to Faro earlier this year. Photo: Tony Pick - Credit: Archant

However, it suggests that this could be reduced to less than 30 minutes. “Already there are plans afoot for additional line capacity,” it adds. “A more radical solution would involve extending Crossrail to Stansted and further on to Cambridge along the M11.”

A proposal for the new east-west Crossrail route from Shenfield in Essex to Reading in Berkshire to include a spur from Stratford to Stansted Airport was put forward in 2012 when the Davies Commission was launched.

However, Crossrail, which is to be officially known as the Elizabeth Line, is now at an advanced stage of construction and a more likely option for improving links from Stansted could be the proposed Crossrail2, a north-south scheme would link up with the Liverpool Street to Cambridge line.

A spokesman for Stansted Airport, which has long campaigned for improved rail links with the capital, said: “Stansted is one of the busiest and fastest growing airports in the UK and our vision is to continue growing in a sustainable way to better serve one of the most dynamic regions of the UK.

“This vision will provide our region and London with more international connectivity by utilising Stansted’s available runway capacity but it’s vitally important we have a rail service that caters for future growth at the airport and along the burgeoning London-Cambridge corridor.

“To realise the full potential of the airport and the corridor, we need government to be serious about investing in our transport infrastructure and that means delivering a faster, more reliable and frequent rail service for our passengers and commuters to help business connect to the global marketplace.”

Former Stansted owner BAA abandoned plans to build a second runway at the airport in 2010.

Current owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which acquired Stansted in 2013 as part of the forced break-up of BAA, has said it is considering “all options” for expansion up to 35m passengers a year “and possibly beyond” but has made no mention of plans for a second runway.

•IoD report author Dan Lewis will be among the speakers in an Essex IoD event at Stansted later this month, taking part in a panel discussion at a breakfast event at the Hilton London Stansted Airport Hotel, from 7.30am to 9.30am on May 24.

Other speakers will include Andrew Cook, director of highways and transportation at Essex County Council, Adam Bryan, managing director of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), and Jon Horne, chief operating officer at Stobart Aviation, owner of London Southend Airport

Places cost £26 plus VAT for IoD members and members’ guests and £36 plus VAT for non-members. For further details, click here.

The event will be followed by the annual members meeting of the IoD Essex branch to which all IoD members are invited.