18th May 2005
Further doubts over second Stansted runway
News today (18 May) from BAA of delay in the project planning for a proposed second runway at Stansted has been welcomed by Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) as a sign of yet further doubt that it will ever be built.
But, say SSE, the pressure must be maintained until such time as BAA formally withdraws its plans for a second Stansted runway. The announcement by BAA makes clear that the original 2011-12 target for construction of a new runway could not be met before 2013 at the earliest and even this would not be achievable without a reversal of the regulatory position on cross subsidy. However, such a policy reversal would have EU and UK Competition Law implications – an additional obstacle in the path of the airport developer.
Responding to the announcement, British Airways has already said that it would be unreasonable to expect airlines at Heathrow and Gatwick to fund their competitors’ runway at Stansted. However, Ryanair and Easyjet – Stansted Airport’s biggest customers – have always made clear that they cannot be expected to pay BAA’s price for a new runway.
All the signs point to an impasse in the development of a second Stansted runway with the airport’s over-dependence upon the budget airlines and overall lack of financial viability presenting particular difficulties for BAA in respect of the funding of any second runway. Stansted is the least profitable (per passenger) of BAA’s seven UK airports.
BAA has recently admitted that a slowdown in growth rates means that even if planning permission were to be granted for an increase in capacity on the existing runway to 35 million passengers per annum (mppa), this figure would not be achieved until 2015. There would still be the possibility of further applications for increased capacity beyond this – potentially of 10mppa or more. This ‘spare’ capacity would call into question still further the need for a second runway.
“BAA’s repeated claims that Stansted expansion plans are on track can no longer be believed. However, this community is no more prepared to accept expansion in 2013 or beyond than in 2011-12 and we will continue to fight until BAA recognises that its plans are a lost cause,” said SSE Chairman Peter Sanders.