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New report finds expanding Heathrow or Gatwick would reduce regional airport growth

9th February, 2015

A report by the Heathrow All Party Parliamentary Group has found that expanding either Heathrow or Gatwick would largely re-distribute growth away from regional airports and the other airports in the South East. Under all ten forecasts produced by the Airports Commission, growth at regional airports (those outside the South East) is reduced if a new runway is built compared with the baseline forecast.

Taking growth away from the regions

Growth at Heathrow would, the report found, be offset by up to a 28% loss in regional airport passengers, and around an 8% loss at other South East airports. The loss of growth at regional airports is particularly dramatic when carbon emissions are capped at 2005 levels in 2050, However, the redistribution of demand to the South East is still present even where the carbon target is not met.

Image of passenger forecast changes Heathrow APPG report

Growth from expanding Heathrow would be largely offset by loss of passengers from regional airports. Graph taken from the APPG report

Also revealed is that Airports Commission figures point to overall passenger growth rate from 2030 being the same whether airports are expanded or not (at 1.4% per year), with similar forecasts of the total national numbers of flights and destinations served. Growth in the number of flights at Heathrow corresponds with a reduction of 207,000 regional flights a year to and from regional airports by 2050.

Lower forecasts with a new runway

Under some forecasts, particularly those with a carbon limit, the total number of passengers nationally would be lower if a new runway was built compared to the underlying baseline. This trend could be a result of a new runway being associated with an increased proportion of long haul flights, which produce more CO2 per passenger than the short haul flights and therefore take up more of the available emissions.

The report concludes that expansion in the South East could have a significant negative impact on the regions and on the overall efficiency of the UK economy. The findings fit in with those from our research, which showed that in order to allow growth of emissions at an airport in the South East, regional airports would have to be constrained in order for climate targets to be met.

The release of the report shortly after comments from the director for regulatory policy at the Civil Aviation Authority, Iain Osborne, about the regulator’s view that congestion in UK airspace means that South East airport expansion would lead to restrictions at regional airports. Speaking at the Westminster Energy, Environment and Transport Forum, he told delegates:

“You can’t have hundreds more movements into a hub airport and allow traffic to a regional airport”

Download: The Wider Economy – Impact of Heathrow Airport’s expansion on the number and distribution of UK passengers and destinations