Committee backs new runway for Heathrow but not Stansted

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Members of a UK cross-party parliamentary transport committee have backed a third runway at London Heathrow and development of high-speed rail links as an alternative to some domestic flights.

But the wide-ranging report by the Transport Select Committee, The Future of Aviation, says the UK Government should look at constructing a second runway at London Gatwick rather than Stansted.

Even with a third runway, Heathrow is "unlikely" to become a hub for many UK cities and the committee believes it "essential" that there should be direct access to the national rail network from the airport.

"Heathrow is a major European hub airport but only six UK cities have flights into it," says committee chairman Louise Ellman.

"Even with expansion, we need to improve direct access to Heathrow from the national rail network in order to maximise the economic benefits and to reduce the environmental impacts."

The committee adds that it is "imperative" that a high-speed rail network for the UK includes links to other major airports in the country. "Provided that good-quality airport links are provided, high-speed rail will provide an alternative to some domestic flights," the report states.

While expansion at Heathrow, including an additional terminal, is supported, the committee says it is "not convinced" that the Government has made a case for a second runway at Stansted.

It says that the delays in reaching a final decision on a second runway - combined with the current decline in passenger numbers - mean that this runway would be unlikely to open before 2019, by which time the restrictions on a second Gatwick runway will have expired.

As a result, says the report, the Government should "reconsider" whether Gatwick, which has just transferred to new ownership after being sold by operator BAA, might be a better candidate for an extra runway.