Northolt Airport: in a policy vacuum, it could help solve the UK’s London connectivity problem

For several years there has been a sideshow to the debate about whether or not there should be additional runway capacity at London Heathrow or Gatwick airports. Or whether the UK should simply make do with what it has got. In Jul-2015 the Airports Commission came down in favour of Heathrow but the issue seems to be so difficult for the British government that it has become incapable of making a decision.

This policy vacuum has elevated to the level of possibility a suggestion that was impossible when first aired; namely that a rundown military airport a few miles north of Heathrow in a suburb called Northolt might be used as a proxy domestic runway for the ‘country’s only hub airport.’ It was dismissed almost out of hand by the Commission.

But the longer the debate goes on – and it shows no sign of abating - the stronger is the hand held by the proponents of this apparently madcap idea. If the government announced tomorrow that an additional runway was to be built – and assuming it gave the nod to Heathrow – it would be 10 years at least before it entered service. Meanwhile, say commerce and industry, critical air connections from the British regions to ‘emerging markets’ are ‘missing.’

One airline – Flybe - seems to have come on board latterly and appears prepared to put its money where its mouth is. This report looks at the history behind the proposal, the pros and cons, and how realistic it is today.

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