Following a presentation at the Partnership’s September meeting, the Communications Director for Gatwick Airport has been invited to a working lunch on 15th November to answer in-depth questions about plans for a second runway.
The UK Department for Transport’s (DfT) latest UK Aviation Forecast predicts that passenger numbers at UK airports are set to increase from 219m in 2011 to 315m in 2030 and 445m by 2050. The demand for air travel is estimated to rise between 1% – 3% per year. Additionally over 2.3 million tonnes of freight is currently transported by air which is also expected to increase.
By 2015, the air passenger transport industry is forecast to contribute £18 billion to UK GDP [2.1% of the total], support 700,000 jobs in the UK and boost UK productivity calculating that every 10% increase in transport services leads to a 1.3% increase in productivity. Although the UK air passenger transport industry is currently in a strong position, it faces serious challenges from other countries. The Heathrow-Gatwick hub's main competitors - Schipol [Amsterdam], Charles de Gaulle [Paris], and Frankfurt Am Main - are all actively developing additional runway capacity, which could deprive London of its pre-eminent position in European aviation.
The current UK government also defends airport expansion in terms of personal choice. If people want to fly, it is argued, they should be able to thus the idea of attempting to limit demand by "pricing people out of flying" as an alternative to increasing supply has been largely rejected.
It is generally agreed that, if the 2015 needs are or be met, additional capacity must be provided in the South East of England, although it is by no means a consensus view that the growth in air transport should be accommodated with strong general opposition from environmentalists and local opposition from organisations like Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign. Both cite a lack of evidence to support any requirement for increased capacity and pollution challenges.
Aircraft emissions are known to be particularly polluting. Research published in 1999 found that aviation was responsible for 3.5% of the total global contribution to climate change. This figure was expected to rise to between 4% and 17% by 2050. On the ground, the Department for Transport admits that as many as 35,000 people living near to Heathrow Airport suffer from poor air quality, primarily caused by nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter although not all of it originates from airplanes; a significant amount is caused by road traffic visiting the airport.
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