MAG outlines London Stansted’s potential to meet air capacity needs

Andrew Harrison

Andrew Harrison - Credit: Archant

EXPANDING Stansted Airport represents the most cost-effective solution for the country when it comes to increasing airport capacity, its new owners have claimed.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has set out potential options including one more runway at Stansted Airport, or a “hub” with four runways in its submissions to the independent body charged by the government with recommending future aviation policy.

MAG said that even without any significant investment, the site could double the number of flights it handles “almost overnight”.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) outlined its potential for growth in London and the South East in the short, medium and long-term, and presented a range of options which it believes should be on the Airports Commission’s shortlist for further study in 2014 and 2015.

MAG’s submission, ‘Capacity for Growth’, responds to a call for evidence from the Airports Commission which is examining options for meeting the need for additional airport capacity in the south east.

MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish said: “Our short-term priority is to make Stansted better for passengers than ever before, and we’ve made major progress in our first four months of ownership, including starting work on an £80million terminal transformation.

“Stansted is uniquely placed to meet the UK’s aviation capacity needs now and over the next 15 years. Almost overnight, Stansted could double the number of flights it handles without any need for significant investment in new infrastructure.

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“Looking to the long-term, the interests of passengers will be best served by a pragmatic approach, focused on delivering new capacity that is cost-effective and flexible, and capable of driving competition across the aviation industry.

“Developing new capacity at a number of airports is likely to be best for passengers. Should the Commission take a different view and conclude that the UK needs an effective hub to provide international connectivity, then Stansted could certainly fulfil that role in a cost-effective way.”

“Both options should be considered, but whichever path the Commission takes the costs and the environmental impacts of building new capacity at Stansted are likely to be far lower than at alternative locations. From the short term to the long term, Stansted ticks every box.”

One of the options set out in MAG’s submission is for an additional runway, either to the north-west of the existing runway, with capacity of between 70 – 80 million passengers a year, or to the east of the existing runway, with capacity up to around 90 million passengers a year.

It also lays out the options of an airport with four runways with capacity of between 140 to 160 million passengers a year designed and operated as “an effective hub airport with good resilience and easy connections for passengers between flights”.

Stansted says it is “well placed” against each of the criteria set out by the Airports Commission, which has identified the criteria it will use to evaluate the options for expansion, as a viable, cost competitive expansion option, with lower environmental and social costs than the alternatives. Even with new runway capacity, Stansted’s noise impacts will be a small fraction of those experienced around Heathrow, it argues.

“Capacity development at Stansted would support London’s development to the east and along the London-Stansted-Cambridge corridor, and act as a catalyst for growth and productivity in a region that will be critical to driving economic growth in the UK in the future,” MAG says.

Key benefits of further expansion at Stansted include that it is a scaleable and flexible solution to the UK’s aviation capacity needs – able to offer additional capacity and then grow incrementally to two, three or four runways in the future, MAG says.

Fewer residents are exposed to noise at Stansted than at other major airports in the South East; 258,500 at Heathrow compared to 1,250 at Stansted, it adds.

It points out that the space for additional runways, terminals, roads and rail connections is more readily available at Stansted than at alternatives.

“Stansted is likely to represent the most cost-effective solution for the country. It is estimated a on-airport cost of developing a four-runway hub at Stansted would around £10bn – much less than the cost of an Estuary Airport or expansion at Heathrow,” it said.