Bristol Airport cannot afford to lose out to larger Heathrow, warns chief executive
PUBLISHED: 16:35 25 October 2016 | UPDATED: 17:02 25 October 2016
The Government's backing for an expansion to Heathrow Airport should not come at the expense of regional airports, such as Bristol's.
That is the opinion of Bristol Airport chief executive Robert Sinclair who was speaking today (Tuesday) after Transport Secretary Chris Grayling announced the Government’s intention to support Heathrow’s plan for a third runway, rather than making London Gatwick bigger.
Mr Sinclair, who has campaigned extensively in recent years against increasing reliance on London’s airports, said: “Today’s decision reflects the new Government’s keen focus to keep Britain moving and demonstrate it is open for business in a post-Brexit era.
“However, most passengers flying into and out of the UK use airports other than Heathrow. The benefits of increased connectivity, inbound tourism and more jobs must be spread across the whole country, not just concentrated in London.
“In particular, the role of major regional airports, like Bristol, must not be overlooked following what has been a South East focused debate.
“The solution to capacity constraints in London has dominated the UK aviation agenda for decades yet, even with Government support, a third runway at Heathrow remains many years away and better use of existing capacity must be a priority in the meantime.
“For many passengers beyond the capital, there is another option in the shape of resurgent airports like Bristol.”
Bristol Airport has enjoyed an increase in passenger numbers in recent years and is set to welcome eight million through its terminal this year.
Mr Sinclair added: “Simply funnelling passengers from all over the UK into Heathrow is not a comprehensive or sustainable transport strategy. More needs to be done to improve surface access to regional airports which can meet demand closer to where it arises, reducing journey times for travellers and encouraging public transport use in the process.
“Support for schemes such as the Bristol South West Economic Link in next month’s Autumn Statement would demonstrate the Government’s commitment to balanced aviation growth with real benefits beyond the South East.
“An expanded Heathrow would handle ten times the current number of aircraft movements at Bristol Airport, with at least 200 times as many people affected by noise.
“This difference in scale clearly illustrates why restrictions and mitigation measures which may be required at Heathrow are not right for regional airports seeking to grow.
“In our view, existing structures and approaches already strike an appropriate balance for most airports and the local communities around them.”