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News - 30 April 2005

South-east airports to get huge investment

British Airports authority (BAA) plans to invest £6.8bn in Heathrow, Stanstead and Gatwick over the next 10 years.

Passenger numbers at all three are set to soar over the coming decade rising from 121 million a year to 162 million (34%) by 2015 and these figures do not take into account any additional runway provision at either Heathrow or Stanstead.

There are plans for a second runway at Stanstead (which was chosen over Gatwick) by 2011 and a third runway at Heathrow by 2015. Despite being the busiest single runway airport in the world, Gatwick cannot be considered for expansion until after 2019 because of a legal agreement with West Sussex County Council. As a consequence passenger numbers at Gatwick are expected to show the smallest rise from 32 million to 41 million, whereas Heathrow’s numbers will go from a current 67.7 million to 86 million (27%) and Stanstead from 21.2 to 35 million (65%).


There is concern in some circles that the plans for Stanstead are too ambitious and that it does not have the transport links to support the scale of expansion. There is also concern that there will be cross subsidy of airport operations with BAA using money from the successful Heathrow and Gatwick hubs to prop up Stanstead. It would be unfortunate if this happens because Gatwick is a key driver for the south-east and must maintain its role as a business-flight airport as far as possible.

If Heathrow is unable to meet stringent EU emission controls then a third runway will be ruled out. Under these circumstances the Gatwick option will return to the table.

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British Airports Authority

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