13 FEBRUARY 2017

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Article from BTNews 13 FEBRUARY 2017

COMMENT: Domestic air routes - Can we wait?

On 2 February, transport secretary Chris Grayling took a major step forward in publishing the draft Airports National Policy Statement which is now subject to a public consultation.

It is a long and complex document with attachments. 

One point was very much highlighted: “The government expects Heathrow to add six more domestic routes across the UK by 2030 Belfast International, Liverpool, Newquay, Humberside, Prestwick and Durham Tees Valley, bringing the total to 14.”

But can these regional points wait? What happens in the meantime? And what of Carlisle, Dundee, Inverness with just a single Heathrow service, plus the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey? In a post-Brexit world, they all need links to the capital and beyond. Plymouth has a closed but safeguarded airport that once served Heathrow up to five times a day. The city desperately requires these to be reinstated.

It is very clear the government recognises how vital the connections to the provinces are to Heathrow, and also to London itself. HS2 is years away, the motorways are gradually choking up, and the much improved train services run for the most part into the centre of the city, not Europe’s most important (and busiest) international airport.

The answer is staring them straight in their faces and could be operational very quickly.

London Northolt (NHT), now called RAF Northolt, is just six miles north of Heathrow, and something less than 20min by road to T5. 

It is presently the home of government and royal flights, and a few Royal Air Force communications movements. And up to 12,000 arrivals and departures by (subsidised) private jets.  

Business Travel News contends that these executive aircraft could be moved to one of the numerous airports specialising in such planes in the London zone including Biggin Hill, Farnborough, London City, Luton, Oxford and Stansted.

From a technical (air traffic) point of view, 12,000 aircraft are 12,000 aircraft no matter what the type. At 1,700m (London City is 1,199m), the runway can easily cope with such aircraft as the quiet turboprop Bombardier Q400 (partly built in Belfast).  The terminal would need some easily achieved modifications and certain fire and safety requirements upgraded. But that would be it. Liverpool to Heathrow central area in less than 2hr (or Newquay to Oxford Circus in much the same time).

London Northolt can support the provinces today. 

It just needs the transport secretary to put it to the top of his agenda, gain the support of the Treasury (the financial gains are substantial) and even ask the local MP (the foreign secretary) for support. Quieter aircraft and more business and jobs are a real bonus for the constituency of Uxbridge & South Ruislip where the airport sits.

London Northolt can happen tomorrow. Can the provinces afford to wait?!

PLEASE ALSO SEE

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/major-step-forward-in-building-a-global-britain-as-public-has-its-say-on-airport-expansion

https://www.btnews.co.uk/article/9484   The Northolt Story

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Christopher Hodgkinson, London

Your continued support to open Northolt to intra UK services is to be congratulated. The current 12,000 movements pales into insignificance to the 46,000 movements whicha t one time operated by BEA from Northolt and should cover most if not all services fro UK operations.


David Starkie, London

Couldn't agree more. The idea has been around for more than 20 years. I would add that Northolt also has very good road and tube connections adjacent. So what is the hold-up?


BRADLEY BURGESS, UK

Prestwick? Really? What's the justification for that with Glasgow 30 minutes up the road?


Hugh W. Cowin, Hatfield, England

Hear, hear - just include Newcastle


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