Regional Airports (RAL) is planning to extend the passenger terminal at Southend Airport in Essex, north-east of London, and to develop the airport's rail link to the capital, as part of a ú3.5 million ($5.6 million) plan to boost passenger throughput.

RAL chief executive Andrew Walters says that the aim is to restore annual passenger figures to 700,000, a number which the airport enjoyed in the late 1960s. Walters says that the idea is to encourage short-haul European scheduled operators to use Southend as an alternative to London City Airport, situated in London's Docklands development area.

Southend is to be renamed London Express Airport, partly reflecting the fast rail service to central London operated by the Great Eastern railway company. He says that six trains an hour will run during peak times (four during off-peak) and will call at Stratford in east London, which is to be the site of a new Channel Tunnel terminal, with links to the London Underground, the City and the Docklands area.

Funding for a new railway terminal at Southend will be met by the sale of an additional 2,300m2 (25,000ft2) area attached to the airport's retail park, which has already been sold to developers Sears Properties. Planning permission has been applied for, and it is expected that the new station could be open by mid-1998.

Walters hopes to attract operators of British Aerospace 146 commuter jet-type aircraft. He says that airlines "…already divert from London City on a regular basis" and that many of these operators are considering a permanent switch. "Studies have indicated that this will be the fastest route into London," he says.

Source: Flight International