London mayor backs report calling for new UK hub airport

Airline passengers queue to enter the departures area at Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport, in west London December 19, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor (Britain - Tags: TRANSPORT POLITICS ENVIRONMENT)

LONDON (Reuters) - London Mayor Boris Johnson has called for a new airport to be built in south-east England after a report said Heathrow was losing out to European rivals, reigniting the debate on London’s airport capacity.

“The capital’s airports are full, our runways are rammed and we risk losing jobs to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Madrid or other European cities should we fail to act,” Johnson said on Tuesday.

“We need to start planning for a brand new airport that can help meet the ever-increasing demand for aviation and act as a hub, particularly to the rest of the UK.”

The report, overseen by Transport for London’s (TfL) deputy chairman Daniel Moylan, said Britain’s economy could suffer without a new hub airport.

It said that Heathrow, owned by Ferrovial's FER.MC BAA, had slipped to seventh in terms of destinations served by international airports worldwide, from second in 1990.

The number of destinations that can be directly accessed from Heathrow stood at 157 compared to 235 from Frankfurt and 224 for Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, the report said.

The report also said that Heathrow handles around 75,000 more passengers a day than it was built for.

Plans for a third runway at Heathrow were scrapped when the Conservative-Liberal coalition government took office in May, in response to concerns about noise and carbon emissions.

Johnson has previously lobbied for a new airport in the Thames estuary, an option ruled out by the government due to cost, environmental concerns and the risk of birds hitting plane engines. (Reporting by Rhys Jones; editing by Rosalba O’Brien)