Heathrow Airport would have no more than three runways under the UK government’s Airports Commission recommendation and so London Stansted Airport has been tipped as a possible successor to Heathrow as a freight hub.
The commission is opposed to a fourth runway and its final report says: “There would not be any credible case, however, for a fourth runway at Heathrow.”
A future three runway Heathrow at full freight capacity will mean airfreight has to increase at other airports in the next thirty years. According to the commission’s final report, “there would be likely to be sufficient demand to justify a second additional runway [in England] by 2050.”
The report goes on to say: “If new capacity was found to be necessary…airports previously assessed as part of the Commission process, for example Stansted and Gatwick [Airport], and airports outside London and the South East, such as at Birmingham or Manchester,” should be considered.
The UK airfreight industry is already centered around the London region. The commission examined options for runway expansion at Heathrow and Gatwick. At the commission’s press briefing on Wednesday 1 July, its chair, Sir Howard Davies, said that Gatwick was rejected because it as an intra-European low cost airline focused airport with a location South of London that means its road links to the rest of the UK are not as good as Heathrow.
In 2014, Gatwick handled 88,000 tonnes. Stansted handles more than 230,000 tonnes annually and new freight carriers attracted in the last few years include Qatar Airways and China Southern Airlines. Stansted managing director, Andrew Harrison, says: “We share the commission’s view that Stansted’s existing runway will be full by around 2030. Stansted provides an obvious solution for additional capacity.”
But, Stansted tells Air Cargo Week: “We don’t have any plans for runway expansion.” However, Stansted’s former owner, BAA, did have a proposal for a second runway following a government white paper in 2003 that called for runways.