Owners of Britain’s two biggest airports were at loggerheads this week after Heathrow urged the government to ignore Gatwick in any future aviation strategy.
In its first contribution to the aviation capacity debate since the establishment of the government’s Airports Commission, Heathrow said that future expansion must centre on hub airports.
Its report, One hub or none, sets out why it believes having two hubs connecting London’s main airports via high speed rail links is unworkable.
It concludes that creating a single hub airport is the best solution to resolving capacity constraints in the South East. This means expanding Heathrow or replacing it with a new hub airport. The report says it is “impossible” for other non-hub airports such as Gatwick, Stansted or Birmingham to fulfil the same role.
It cited research by think tank Frontier Economics that shows the lack of capacity at Heathrow airport is already costing the UK up to £14bn a year in lost trade and that this figure could rise to £26bn a year by 2030.
But Gatwick Airport disputed Heathrow’s claims and said Gatwick was the airport best suited for expansion. A legal agreement with local authorities not to build a second runway expires in 2019.
“Growing Gatwick is the best way to address the current and future capacity problems in the south east,” said a spokesman.
“A new runway at Gatwick could be more affordable and practical than other options and give passengers a greater choice of routes to key destinations. Critically, we would have a significantly lower environmental impact compared to an expanded Heathrow.
“The Airports Commission needs to look to the future and not to Heathrow’s monopoly past.”