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Govt launches Heathrow consultation

The government has issued a consultation on the prospect of substantial expansion at Heathrow airport.

The government has today initiated the process that could lead to substantial expansion of Heathrow airport by issuing a public consultation on the subject.

Transport secretary Ruth Kelly asked for the views of local people and interested bodies on proposals to create a sixth terminal at the hub and build a third runway.

These changes would enable the airport to handle some 700,000 flights a year.

While Ms Kelly stressed that she "fully understand[s] this is an issue which raises strong feelings on all sides", her comments indicated that expansion at Heathrow will be essential before long if the airport is to stay in a healthy position.

"Heathrow supports 170,000 jobs, billions of pounds of British exports and is our main gateway to the global economy. But for too long it has operated at nearly full capacity, with relatively minor problems causing severe delays to passengers," the transport secretary said.

"If nothing changes, Heathrow's status as a world-class airport will be gradually eroded - jobs will be lost and the economy will suffer."

Ms Kelly said that, while London and the UK are reliant on the international connections provided by Heathrow, any decision on expansion at the hub will have to meet local environmental tests on noise and air quality.

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