Time running out to save London's air network, Government is warned


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London will shrink to a "branch line" for travellers by 2027 unless the Government fixes the city's aviation network, BAA said yesterday.

Heathrow could become a "local airport", with the capital's economy losing out to other cities as a result, the airport authority's chief executive Colin Matthews told the Prime Minister.

Passenger numbers are rising at European rivals like Paris and Frankfurt, while Heathrow is at full capacity with no space for new flights.

Mr Matthews believes a third runway is the answer to London's problems. "We've only got about 15 years, we need to do something now," he warned. Otherwise, he said, "the number of destinations served and frequency of flights will progressively decline. There will come a stage when that decline is such that what is left is not sustainable as a hub. There is the option of doing nothing. But that simply means that business that should go to the UK will go to Frankfurt, Paris or Amsterdam instead."

London mayor Boris Johnson admitted his concern at the situation, saying: "London's position as a global economic powerhouse is under grave threat. Our European competitors have built mega four-runway-plus airports and are already greedily snaffling up British passengers."

Willie Walsh, head of BA's parent company IAG, said: "We need action by this Government and I've seen none. I have seen no evidence of the Government appreciating the importance of aviation to Britain."

John Dickie, strategy director at business representative London First, said: "London has held its No 1 position against all the odds. But if we don't have the connections to places like China, we won't maintain it.

"Cities like Paris and Amsterdam that simply should not be competitive with London will be – because they are better connected."