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Heathrow Third Runway Campaign Takes Off

(c) Sky News 2012

Heathrow Airport's owners have stepped up their campaign for a third runway by claiming a lack of capacity at the major hub is costing the economy up to £14bn annually.

It believes the price in lost trade and jobs could rise to £26bn a year by 2030.

The report by Heathrow is the latest salvo to be thrown into the fierce debate over how to boost air capacity in south east England.

The Government has appointed former Financial Services Authority chief Sir Howard Davies to lead an aviation commission to resolve the row but there has been criticism that it will not submit its report until the summer of 2015.

Heathrow bosses are lobbying for a third, extra, runway at the west London airport and a separate study has previously suggested an expanded Heathrow would need to cross over the M25 motorway.

But environmentalists and residents surrounding Heathrow have vowed to fight any such plan.

Other options for the Davies review to consider include the proposal favoured by London's mayor Boris Johnson - a new hub airport in the Thames Estuary or expanding Gatwick, Luton or Stansted.

Heathrow's report ruled out as "unviable" the so-called Heathwick plan, where Heathrow and Gatwick would be joined by a rail link.

The study, compiled for the airport by economics consultants Frontier Economics, stated: "The choice for the UK is not between two hubs or one, but between one hub or none. Only a single airport can operate as a hub in the UK.

"That leaves three options for the UK Government: It can do nothing and let the UK fall behind its European competitors at the cost of lost growth and jobs.

"It can add additional capacity at Heathrow or it can close Heathrow and replace it with a new hub airport."

The report said that Heathrow operates at 99% capacity and that there was no room to fit in new trade routes to the emerging economies which were important for future economic growth.

It added that there were 1,532 more flights to the three largest cities in mainland China from Paris and Frankfurt than there were from Heathrow.

Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said: "If anyone was still in doubt about the importance of aviation to the UK economy, today's report should lay those doubts to rest."

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