Third Heathrow runway to be ruled out in bid for terminal

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The Independent Online
THE GOVERNMENT will announce this week that it is abandoning plans to build a third runway at Heathrow. Instead, it will confirm that it is to wait until 2019, when a ban on a second strip at Gatwick expires, before expanding runway capacity in th e South-east.

By removing the fear of a new runway at Heathrow the Government hopes to increase the chances that a fifth terminal at the airport will be approved by a public inquiry. But it will revive worries that inadequate capacity could end the dominance of Londonas the European hub for intercontinental flights.

The announcement is a rebuff to the recommendations made in a 1993 report by a Ministry of Transport working group called Rucatse (Runway Capacity in the South-east). That forecast a continuation of the 7 per cent growth rate in passengers seen that year; a rate maintained in 1994. This would mean that the number of passengers using airports in the South-east would rise from the present 75 million to 170 million by the year 2015.

In its report Rucatse stated that "benefits to passengers could provide a case for a further runway at Heathrow or Gatwick by 2010 or, if this were not provided, at Stansted by 2015".

The Government will announce instead that better use should be made of existing runways. There is under-used capacity at Luton and particularly at Stansted, which, it was reckoned, could handle four times as many passengers as it does now.

The decision will provide a boost for promoters of two existing "feeder" airfields, Northolt and Redhill. Although Northholt, a couple of miles north of Heathrow, was used by civilian aircraft for 15 years after the Second World War, it is now used only for official flights by the Royal Family and senior Government figures. The RAF is resisting pressure to allow civilian flights to return.

Redhill could be used for the large number of smaller aircraft that now use its big neighbour, Gatwick. At the moment half the flights at Gatwick generate only a fifth of the passengers. Transferring them to Redhill would increase its capacity by 10.5 million passengers a year.

Redhill's promoters say that expanding the airport would not increase disturbance to the local population and would create 2,500 jobs in an area of considerable unemployment.