Airport growth at risk at West country airports

29.1.2009 (Western Morning News)

AMBITIOUS plans to carry millions of extra passengers from Westcountry airports
would be halted if a new runway at Heathrow was built, a report has claimed.

The increase in carbon dioxide emissions from an expanded Heathrow would jeopardise
the Government’s climate change target, the Campaign for Better Transport says.

The pressure group, having analysed Department for Transport (DfT) figures, argues
Heathrow and its controversial third runway would use two-thirds of British aviation’s
carbon ration by 2050 – the threshold at which Government has insisted emissions
from planes would have fallen to below 2005 levels.

It argues that such a scenario would mean plans to increase flights out of Exeter,
Plymouth and Newquay airports would be hit as no other airports in the UK would
be able to expand.

Exeter airport has forecast at least a three-fold leap in annual passenger footfall
from its current level of 1 million to 3.4 million by 2030.

Stephen Joseph, executive director of Campaign for Better Transport, said Transport Secretary
Geoff Hoon had either “not done his sums properly” or was “so determined to expand
Heathrow that he is willing to cap capacity at every other airport to do it”.

Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for West Devon, said strong “corner shop” regional
airports were vital to the region, not just in terms of saving “slogging up to
Gatwick and Heathrow”, but supporting tourism and industry.    He said: “I strongly
agree with this study, and I’m against Heathrow’s third runway for that reason.”

Mr Streeter added: “There’s no doubt this is a zero sum game – if Heathrow grows there will be no scope for Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth and
Newquay to expand.     And my passion is to see regional airports expand.”

Exeter-based Flybe is the biggest carrier in the region, with daily flights from
Exeter and Newquay.    Its chief commercial officer, Mike Rutter, said taxing older
polluting aircraft would be a better way of addressing environmental concerns
than “unnecessarily discouraging or inhibiting airport expansion in the UK regions”.    
He added: “Flybe believes that regional aviation cannot be constrained to allow
expansion in London.”

Two weeks ago, Mr Hoon announced the Government would press ahead with Heathrow’s
expansion. Ministers are facing a major Labour revolt over the plans, with the
Government’s majority slashed to just 19 last night as two Labour MPs resigned
in protest and Labour backbenchers joined the Opposition in blasting plans.

The debate came after Labour MP Andrew Slaughter (Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s
Bush) stepped down as an aide to Foreign Office minister Lord Malloch-Brown to
campaign against the plan. Shortly after the vote, Virendra Sharma, Labour MP
for Ealing Southall, quit as Private Parliamentary Secretary to Home Office Minister
Phil Woolas.

In an effort to pacify the environmental lobby and even sceptics in his own Cabinet,
Mr Hoon announced there would be a limit on the amount of carbon dioxide the aviation
industry could blast out.     Emissions from British aviation would have to be pegged to below 2005 levels
– 37.5 million tonnes – by 2050
, he said.

However, the latest DfT forecasts for the growth of aviation carbon dioxide state
that emissions would rise to 59.9 million tonnes in 2050
, even taking into consideration steady improvement in aircraft fuel efficiency.  
The forecast assumes that annual passenger numbers more than double from 228 million
in 2005 to 525 million by 2050.

The DfT also predicts that Heathrow expansion will increase carbon emissions from 17.1 million tonnes in 2005 to 23.6 million tonnes in 2030.

The Campaign for Better Transport analysis found that even if Heathrow stopped
growing in 2030 – and its emissions stabilised – all other airports in Britain
would have to cut their combined emissions by a third by 2050 to comply with the
Government’s target.

Newquay airport, now operated by the county council, has aspirations to grow
passenger numbers from 350,000 to around 1.43 million in 2030. Meanwhile, an independent
analysis of Plymouth City Airport shows it could still push passenger numbers
up from about 80,000 to 520,000 a year by 2020 without a runway extension. A spokesman
said year-round regional air services were “a lifeline for areas like the far
South West, where road and rail links are relatively poor”.

He added: “Heathrow’s third runway, if it happens, is probably still 10 years
away, and it will be up to the Government of the day to decide how to achieve
the right balance between international services and regional air links when setting
emissions policy.”

But a spokesman for Exeter Airport, which is planning to create 2,000 jobs and
add a further £160 million to the regional economy over the next two decades,
pointed to improvements in aircraft efficiency as pioneered by Flybe’s Bombardier
Q400 turboprops

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