Stansted Airport: Spare flight capacity should be used to support Heathrow

Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport - Credit: Archant

SPARE flight capacity at Stansted Airport should be used more effectively to offset demand for air travel in and out of Heathrow, according to a new report.

Air Capacity in London, published by the London Assembly, shows that during summer 2012, Stansted’s peak period, it used only 53% of its runway capacity. Currently, the Essex airport services less than half the 35 million passengers per year that it has permission to handle.

The report also calls for improved public transport access from central London to Stansted to encourage travellers to switch from Heathrow and cites Stansted Airport Ltd’s assertion that it could attract 1.5 million more passengers per year if the rail journey time from London was reduced from 45 to 30 minutes.

The study says these factors must be considered by the Airport Commission in its assessment of the different options for addressing airport capacity including London Mayor, Boris Johnson’s proposal for a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary.

The commission, chaired by ex-Financial Services Authority boss Sir Howard Davies, is expected to report back in 2015.

Chairman of the London Assembly’s Transport Committee, Caroline Pidgeon, said: “Evidence we received shows that the Airport Commission must examine whether better use of existing airport capacity could be an intelligent cost-effective alternative to building new airports or runways.”

Included in the 500-page report is a submission from Stansted Airport Ltd, which states that the airport is ready to take on more of London’s passengers.

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It reads: “Stansted is currently operating at less than half its full capacity....and can handle more of London’s demand with limited noise and environmental impacts.

“Growth to 35 milion passengers per annum will largely be achieved through more intensive use of current facilities, and will require only modest further investment.

“Making best use of Stansted’s existing capacity would have significant economic benefits and would be delivered within approved environmental limits.”

But for this to happen transport links with the capital must be improved, according to Witham MP Priti Patel, who is a lead campaigner on the issue.

She said: “Network Rail recognises that journey times on the West Anglia line are not great. Investment plans are foot and I expect to see improvements to the service within five to ten years.

“We have seen more capacity become available at Stansted in recent years because a downturn in economic activity has hit the airport, and improved transport links are a vital ingredient in making Stansted more attractive and productive

Economics advisor at the Stop Stansted Expansion pressure group, Brian Ross said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the report.

He added: “The report shows what we have been saying for some time - that there is no airport capacity crisis and there simply isn’t the demand for more business flights or more routes to emerging markets.”