With pressure growing on Ministers to address the “capacity crunch” in Britain’s skies, Mr Hammond said merely expanding Heathrow was a “sticking plaster” solution.
The minister, whose constituency is close to the West London airport, warned that there would be strong opposition to building a third runway at Heathrow and that doing so would require current flight paths across south east England to be redrawn.
“People who live in the south east and have no disturbance at the moment may find they are affected if a third runway is built,” said Mr Hammond, who served as the Coalition’s Transport Secretary until a year ago.
The Defence Secretary also attacked plans for a new airport in the Thames estuary, a project widely known as “Boris Island” because one of its most vocal champions is the London Mayor, Boris Johnson.
Mr Hammond warned that such a project would be very expensive and require closing Heathrow, which he believes would “destroy” the economies of West London, the Thames Valley, and the Surrey-Sussex corridor. “That would be a complete disaster,” he said.
Experts believe it would cost in the region of £5billion to link the two airports, with a high-speed train that could take about 15 minutes.
Mr Hammond thinks that the distance between the sites could be cut to as little as 10 minutes by the most advanced high-speed trains.
The Department for Transport has previously looked at a shuttle service between Heathrow and Gatwick that would initially run parallel with the M25, before disappearing into tunnels en route to Gatwick.
Mr Hammond’s intervention comes just days after London’s mayorthreatened to launch legal action against the Government in a bid to speed up airport expansion.
Over the summer David Cameron appointed Sir Howard Davies, the economist, to lead a commission into whether Britain should increase the capacity of its airports. However, the economist is not due to publish his final report until 2015.
Many businesses are pleading for the Prime Minister to make a decision now to make it easier for British firms to gain better access to China and other fast-growing economies.
Although many experts say there is more space to expand Gatwick, there is a legal lock on increasing the size of this airport until 2019.
Doubts over Heathrow-Stansted ‘dual hub’ proposals
A firm of architects, is developing proposals whereby Stansted airport could be linked to Heathrow by high speed rail
Heathrow airport has warned that proposals to create a “dual hub” by twinning it with London Stansted will struggle to succeed.
A firm of architects has suggested that Britain’s largest airport and its sister airport in Essex could be connected by the £15bn Crossrail route that links Heathrow to the eastern fringes of the capital and is due to open at the end of the decade.
The idea by the Make firm envisages Stansted becoming a four-runway airport, while a new rail spur would link the expanded site to Crossrail.
However, José Leo, Heathrow’s chief financial officer, said the idea is a commercial risk because it would take too long to transfer passengers between airports to connecting flights. “I don’t feel particularly convinced about the possibility of operating a dual hub. The key driver for a hub is its ability to provide a very quick connection for transfer passengers. If you introduce a 30-35 minute journey into the process, that will make the challenge even more difficult to handle.”
Sir Howard Davies, former director of the London School of Economics, is leading an independent commission that will examine ways to expand the UK’s airport capacity.