UK's London Assembly stated (01-May-2013) airport capacity in London is currently underused with some London airports having more than half of their runway slots free. In a report published by London Assembly entitled Airport Capacity in London, it noted that "even Heathrow – at 99 per cent runway capacity – might potentially fly an additional 20 million passengers every year if larger aircraft were used". New research commissioned by the Assembly on the usage of London’s airports shows:
- Stansted Airport: 47% of runway slots are available;
- Luton Airport: 51% of runway slots are available;
- Gatwick Airport: 12% of runway slots are currently available;
- Heathrow Airport: at 99% capacity, Heathrow’s runway capacity is nearly full, but some evidence submitted suggests increasing aircraft size would allow it to increase capacity.
To encourage passengers to switch from Heathrow, the report says improving transport access from central London to Gatwick, Luton and Stansted is needed – for example, by better rail connections and actively promoting public transport. Stansted Airport Ltd suggested that it could attract 1.5 million more passengers p/a if the rail journey time from London was reduced from 45 to 30 minutes. The report also reveals that in 2010, 127 million people used London’s airports and most, including those using Heathrow, flew direct to their destinations (78%) rather than use the airports to transfer, with the report saying that this "may question arguments for the need for an additional hub airport to boost London’s economy". The report noted that 75% of flights from Heathrow, the UK's only major international hub airport, are short-haul and London remains the best connected European city across the 23 fastest growing economies. The report also noted "runway constraints at Heathrow and other airports might not be the reason for fewer flights to emerging economies". London Assembly’s Transport Committee chair 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. The need for additional hub capacity is also under debate, with strong data showing rather than runway capacity limiting airlines ability to fly to emerging markets, it could be low passenger demand from each airport’s geographical area. As 700,000 residents already suffer from noise pollution as a result of Heathrow flights, we also hope that any plans to expand Heathrow can soon be laid to rest. Currently London sees 130 million passengers traveling through our airports each year. The challenge for the government and decision-makers is to find the best way to support the UK’s economy globally while ensuring Londoners are not adversely affected by worsening noise and air pollution from planes flying over the capital. In the short term using existing capacity in a smarter way may be the most cost effective solution." [more - original PR]