Darling urged to block BAA Stansted investment

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The Independent Online

Ryanair and other airlines that use BAA's Stansted airport yesterday hit out at its £550m plans to increase passenger numbers and expand facilities.

The Stansted Airline Consultative Committee (ACC), which includes Ryanair, easyJet and British Airways, was reacting to a planning application submitted yesterday to Uttlesford District Council to raise the number of passengers allowed through the airport each year from 25 million to 35 million. The ACC is also against a second, more ambitious project to build a second runway at Stansted. According to the airlines the new runway would cost £4bn but BAA said the real figure was £2.7bn.

The airlines have called for the Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, to intervene to block the runway scheme. BAA expects to make a planning application for it in summer next year.

David O'Brien, ACC's chairman, said: "Over the past 18 months the ACC has been at pains to ensure that additional facilities at Stansted meet user requirements and are provided in a cost-effective manner. However, BAA insists on wasting billions to build gold-plated facilities that no one wants and that consumers will be expected to pay for through higher airport charges."

Nearly 60 per cent of the traffic at Stansted comes from Ryanair's operation there. BAA charges airlines about £3 per passenger to use the airport. It has said this will go up to nearly £5 between now and 2008 to pay for upgraded facilities.

A spokesman for BAA said that Ryanair and other airlines were currently enjoying discounted charges at Stansted. Nick Barton, Stansted's business development and planning director, said: "Today is an important day for Stansted and is the culmination of two years of extensive and wide-ranging studies and consultation on our proposals."