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WHICEVER SIDE of the fence you stand on, the fact remains that London Heathrow’s capacity problems present a major threat to the country’s further economic development.

Heathrow’s growth has been fairly stagnant for almost a decade, hovering just shy of the 70 million passenger mark. Air travel in the UK averages an overall growth of roughly 3% per annum, but shows a declining trend over the past decade. The increase in Air Passenger Duty tax and constriction at the main hub for air traffic in London being a significant factor.

The  Hub-and-spoke system, strengthened when British Airways cut down regional operations, saw traffic figures drop at airports such as Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle as international services were dropped. These numbers have since recovered due to the expansion of the Low Cost sector.

The need for some sort of action to be taken regarding the Heathrow debacle is undeniable. It does, however, present significant potential for growth at the UK’s smaller regional airports.

In recent years, as a result of the global economic meltdown, modest airports such as Bournemouth and Norwich have seen usage plummet drastically. The latest results, though, show signs of improvement. With strategic research and more scheduled services, it is possible to better absorb the demand from their respective catchment areas.

The same approach can be applied to long haul routes, though few airlines dare commit resources to this. Emirates, which flies to Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow and Manchester, have proven this can be successful. Moreover, existence of such a service eats into the market share of domestic flights into Heathrow for onward journeys and will continue to do so as long as capacity issues exist.

The controversial third runway, whose construction would mean the flattening of the entire village of Sipson

“Boris Island” costing £75 billion would be one of the largest projects ever undertaken. And it’s near quite a few WW2 explosives

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