Aviation industry pushes for more flights at Heathrow
HEATHROW airport should handle 136 extra departures and arrivals every day on the two existing runways, and add more night flights: that is the demand from industry leaders in the capital.
The business lobbyist London First has alarmed anti-expansion campaigners by calling for a 10.5 per cent increase in the number of aircraft movements.
Baroness Jo Valentine, chief executive of London First, said: "In the absence of a long-term plan for new runway capacity, we have no choice but to make the assets we have work more intensively".
Europe's busiest airport has a legal limit of 480,000 take-offs and landings a year, and operates at 98 per cent of this cap.
However, the airport has plenty of unexploited capacity.
At present almost all arrivals and departures are segregated, with one runway used for arrivals and the other for departures; at 3pm each day, the flows are switched in order to alleviate noise for local residents.
London First wants to see "mixed mode" at Heathrow, with both runways used for landings and take-offs - a much more efficient use of the two precious strips of concrete.
Gatwick, the world's busiest single-runway airport, can handle up to 54 movements per hour, 10 more than the capacity on each of Heathrow's runways using segregated operations.
An increase in slots at Heathrow could see links re-established to regional airports in the UK, such as Inverness, Liverpool and Cardiff.
London First also calls for restrictions on night flights to be eased, saying :"There is clearly demand from airlines to provide early morning arrivals from key business destinations in Asia and elsewhere".
At present the first departure from Heathrow is scheduled for 6am, with the last at 10.50pm; arrivals are given slightly more leeway.
But the report calls for private jets banned from Heathrow, saying such flight "fill the buffers in the schedule that are there to help the airport recover from delay".
Campaigners against expansion of Heathrow are dismayed at the prospect of "mixed mode" operations.
John Stewart, chair of HACAN, which campaigns against noise on behalf of residents under the flight path, said: "The big concern of local people is that they will lose their half day's break from the noise. It is this which makes life bearable for so many people."
London First says the number of people affected by Heathrow's noise is just 250,000, one-eighth the figure 30 years ago.
Neither the airport's owner nor its biggest customer, British Airways, would comment on the report. But Heathrow Airport Ltd's director of regulation, Emma Gilthorpe, sits on the London First Board.
The Airports Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, is set to make long-term recommendations on aviation policy in 2015.
Because of the time required to build any extra capacity, Davies is also obliged to report on "immediate actions to improve the use of existing runway capacity in the next five years" by the end of 2013.
Heathrow is to submit its own proposals on short-term solutions next week.
London First also slammed the speed and quality of rail links from central London to both Gatwick and Stansted.
The organisation wants the journey time to the Essex airport to be cut by 17 minutes to half-an-hour, and calls for the ticket gates recently installed at Gatwick's station to be removed.