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Heathrow Bosses Make Case To Keep UK Hub

(c) Sky News 2012

Heathrow bosses will put the case for the UK to maintain a major hub airport on Wednesday in a new report.

Chief executive Colin Matthews will send the report, entitled One Hub Or None, to the Whitehall-appointed Aviation Commission.

At present, Heathrow is the UK's major hub airport and the need to maintain such a facility is at the heart of the commission's work.

Headed by former Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies, it will present an interim report on aviation policy to the Government by the end of next year and a final report in summer 2015.

Mr Matthews is expected to argue that splitting a hub between Heathrow and Gatwick - the so-called "Heathwick" option - is not practical and building up other airports as major hubs will not work either.

The aviation policy debate is likely to run for months.

London Mayor Boris Johnson met Sir Howard on Tuesday to reiterate his opposition to a third runway at Heathrow.

He favours a new Thames Estuary airport or possible expansion of Stansted.

The "Boris Island" scheme gained little support from MPs (BSE: MPSLTD.BO - news) in a poll earlier this week.

Of 93 MPs surveyed, 46% supported expansion at Heathrow, with only 16% backing the estuary plan.

Sir Howard's team's initial report will focus on what can be done to cope with aviation demand in the immediate future.

The all-party 2M Group, which represents more than 20 local councils close to Heathrow, has said that it will be telling the Davies Commission that loosening restrictions on Heathrow's existing runways would destroy the quality of life for flightpath communities on all sides of the west London airport.

The group wants a guarantee that "runway alternation" and night-flight restrictions will not be sacrificed so the airport can handle more planes.

The campaign group says that allowing both runways to be used in tandem for arrivals and departures - a system called "mixed mode" - would be just as damaging as creating a third and fourth landing strip.

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