LONDON, Sept 1 A major business lobby group has
thrown its weight behind Britain keeping a single hub airport, a
position which would favour expansion at London's Heathrow.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) said trade
growth would be best delivered by a single British hub airport
with spare capacity, a view which would suggest growth at
Heathrow rather than adding capacity at smaller airport Gatwick,
also in the southeast of the country.
"The CBI recommends hub capacity at a single location as the
best way of boosting connectivity with new markets," the CBI
said in its report, published days before a shortlist of
potential new runway sites is finalised.
A government-appointed Airport Commission has been asked to
make a final recommendation on where to expand London's airport
capacity by summer 2015. It is due to publish a final shortlist
early this month.
A recommendation to build an additional runway at Gatwick
would represent a move away from the hub airport idea, creating
two large airports in the London area.
Heathrow, which by passenger traffic is Britain's busiest
airport and the third busiest in the world, is at the centre of
a long-running political tussle. Constraints on Heathrow's
expansion - it is already 98 percent full - means it is falling
behind rival European hubs in the battle for lucrative routes to
British politicians and business leaders want runway
expansion, but the idea of adding new capacity near to London is
unpopular with many voters because of noise, pollution and
The Commission has already drawn up an initial shortlist,
which includes two possibilities for expansion at Heathrow and
one at Gatwick.
It will reveal in the coming days whether to add to the list
another plan to build a new hub airport from scratch in the
Thames estuary which would be bigger than Heathrow and could
British media reported on Monday that this idea, backed by
London mayor Boris Johnson and deemed to be a much more
expensive option, was likely to be dismissed by the Commission
and not make it on to the shortlist.
A new airport in the Thames estuary would cost between 82
and 112 billion pounds (186.12 billion US dollar), or around
five times as much as the other three short-listed options,
according to the Commission.
The CBI in its report also urged politicians to put a time
frame in place to ensure that building new airport capacity can
start in 2020 after years of policy changes and delays.
(1 US dollar = 0.6018 British pound)
(Reporting by Sarah Young. Editing by Jane Merriman)