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Airport chief swoops into row

Tuesday 6 November 2012 6:00

Newcastle International Airport chief executive David Laws has entered the row over the expansion of Heathrow by calling for a third runway.

He says it is vital for the UK economy and would strengthen regional airports such as Newcastle.

Airport capacity in the South East has provoked fierce debate with London Mayor Boris Johnson leading the fight against any expansion of Heathrow, a proposal which is believed to enjoy some support in the government.

But Laws is vigorously arguing the case for a new runway and for further expansion of capacity beyond that.

He said: “Do we need a new runway at Heathrow? Yes. And I think we need another new airport in 10 years time to keep up with what’s going on in Europe. We need another airport but what we need first of all is that third runway at Heathrow. We potentially would need a second runway at Gatwick.’’

“We are an island, connectivity is absolutely vital for UK plc. We need to be able to tap into new markets, we are being left behind by our counterparts in Europe where they are expanding their airports, putting new runways in. Frankfurt and Amsterdam are examples. They don’t seem to have the problems of adding runways that we do in the UK. As a result these people are able to offer flights into the emerging markets but we struggle.’’

He said that encouraging regional airports to have more direct flights to international destinations was feasible for areas such as Manchester but that centres such as Newcastle did not have the population to sustain many such routes.

But main hub airports in the South East such as Heathrow could expand and put on routes to emerging markets this would lead to more connecting flights from Newcastle.

It would also safeguard regional airports’ current slots into Heathrow which could otherwise come under threat as existing capacity comes under strain.

“That would be absolutely catastrophic for this region,’’ he said.