6th November 2017
New government figures undermine airport claims on expansion need
Claims by Stansted bosses that the airport’s growth potential over the next decade is being severely limited by the present cap on numbers at 35 million passengers per annum (mppa) are being called into question by Stop Stansted Expansion following the publication of new Government figures.
While the airport’s owners, Manchester Airports Group (MAG), predict that Stansted will be bursting at the seams by 2023 and needs an increase in permitted numbers to be able to accommodate 43 million passengers in 2028, the long-awaited UK Aviation Forecasts, published by the Government at the end of October, reveal this to be a gross misrepresentation of the reality.
The Government’s central forecast for Stansted is that it should expect to handle just 31 million passengers annually by 2030, and 35 million by 2033 [Note 1], rather than the inflated figures touted by the airport this year as it talks up the need for further growth in anticipation of its application for planning permission from Uttlesford District Council in early 2018.
The lower expectations of demand at Stansted take full account of the fact that the Government expects Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton and London City Airports all to be 100% full by 2030 (Table 33), based on no additional runways and current planning caps remaining in place.
Furthermore, if, as planned, a third runway is built at Heathrow in the next 10 years, the Government projects that demand at Stansted would actually decline, from 24mppa in 2016 to 22mppa in 2030, and that even by 2040 the airport would still only be handling 32mppa, i.e. less than the present cap, which would not be reached until 2043.
According to the new forecasts, therefore, it is clear that needless damage would be inflicted on the local environment by the building of additional aircraft stands and new taxiways at Stansted in coming years when these won’t be needed for at least another quarter of a century and, potentially, never needed: a second Gatwick runway, for example, would reduce the demand for more capacity at Stansted still further, while concerns about climate change, pressure from oil prices, and security concerns could also weaken demand.
Commenting on the findings, SSE Chairman Peter Sanders said: “MAG’s overstatement of potential demand to secure support for expansion is nothing more than an opportunistic ploy. It is designed to take advantage of a lull during Government consultations on the future of aviation and to try to rush through permissions that might otherwise be restricted once the new aviation policy emerges towards the end of 2018.”
Continuing, he added: “MAG has presented its case as if failure to concede a further tranche of expansion would somehow compromise the rights of the travelling public as well as the UK economy, when the Government’s own figures show this to be far from the truth.”
The new Government forecasts also show that Ryanair’s dominance at Stansted has further increased in recent years with the Irish airline carrying 82% of all passengers in 2016 compared to 64% in 2011. [Note 2] Over the past five years all the other Stansted airlines have declined by a total of 1.4m passengers, shrinking from 5.8m in 2011 to 4.4m in 2016.
Note 1: see Table 32 and Fig 7.4 in UK Aviation Forecasts, published on 24 October 2017 and available here.
Note 2: ibid, page 66.
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