TRANSFERRING some short-haul flights from Heathrow to RAF Northolt and filling the slots with services to developing nations would provide an ‘immediate solution’ to the lack of airport capacity, according to a cross-party group of MPs and peers.
The All Party Parliamentary Group for Aviation, in their informal inquiry into how future government policy should support economic growth, recommends that the 7,000 business flights going in and out of RAF Northolt each year switch to Farnborough Airport, in Hampshire.
The report proposes that RAF Northolt could become a satellite runway for Heathrow, absorbing some short-haul services, and also run domestic services that have lost connections with Heathrow over the last 30 years.
In 1990, Heathrow served 18 mainland regional airports, but now it serves just six UK destinations.
The newly-created slots at Heathrow could then be used for long-haul flights to the ‘BRIC’ countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – and other emerging countries, to ease the capacity strain and help establish and maintain the UK’s connectivity to important world markets.
It is being proposed as a short-term strategy, while a longer-term plan is drawn up and implemented and the group hope to influence Governmetn policy.
John Stewart, Chair of the Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise (HACAN), played down the significance of the inquiry.
“As expected, this report is written from the point of view of the aviation industry,” he said.
“It is important to stress that this is not a formal select committee of Parliament. It has no official standing. It is not surprising they don’t like anything that stands in the way of airport expansion.
“It would be like the All Party Beer Group going teetotal.”
Heathrow serves 180 international destinations, down from 227 in 1990 and some way behind other major European hubs.
Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport offers 313 destinations, and Frankfurt and Paris Charles de Gaulle both serve over 250 global locations.
The Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport is due to launch an investigation into aviation in September.
The all-party group’s report comes just days after Tim Yeo, chairman of the Commons Climate Change and Energy Select Committee, called on Prime Minister David Cameron to take the difficult decision to approve a third runway at Heathrow Airport, a call immediately rejected by the Prime Minister, who ruled out any Heathrow expansion until at least 2015.