BAA to face the flak again over Stansted expansion

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BAA, the under-fire airports operator and owner of Heathrow, faces further criticism this week when the public inquiry over expanding Stansted airport resumes after the summer break.

Campaigners from Stop Stan-sted Expansion (SSE) and local councils are challenging the accuracy of BAA's estimates of how much rail and road congestion would result from the proposed expansion. The company, which was bought by Spain's Ferrovial last year, wants to increase the capacity of the Essex airport from 25 million passengers per year to 35 million.

In April, BAA had to revise its estimates for improving transport links to Stansted following a challenge by consultants appointed by Uttlesford District Council. BAA said the revised assessment was not "materially different" from the original.

Essex County Council and Hertfordshire County Council then pointed out errors which were corrected in a second revised assessment in July.

Tomorrow, councillors from both counties will express their concerns to BAA over what they claim to be the forecasts' lack of transparency and accuracy and inconsistencies with other local planning data. The councils said: "The complicated nature of the BAA transport-modelling suite, and the uncertainty surrounding future planning data and major transport scheme programmes, contribute to [our] concerns on the surface-access forecasts that have been submitted."

One area of contention between SSE and BAA is the company's forecasts of the number of future passenger transfers. Campaigners say BAA's projection underestimates the transport that passengers will need to get to and from the airport.