The government has been urged to improve the rail links between Stansted Airport and central London in order to help the economy.
The airport’s managing director Nick Barton has called on the government to improve connectivity to the facility, which is currently operating at around half of its capacity.
Stansted currently handles 18 million flights a year, while it could take up to 35 million. Heathrow Airport is now at capacity and Gatwick is more than three-quarters full.
Barton believes the journey time from the airport into London has put off a number of customers. Some 49 per cent of Stansted customers use public transport – the highest proportion of any major UK airport.
If the time taken to travel from London Liverpool Street Station to the airport could be cut by 15 minutes to half an hour then more airlines might be attracted to Stansted, along with a higher number of business and leisure users.
Barton told the Financial Times: “Connectivity between the airport and the financial destination is critical.”
Network Rail is being urged to include a commitment to reduce journey time in its investment plan for the next five years. The programme is due to be given the green light entirely or in part by the Department for Transport this summer.
The government’s aviation review to determine how to solve the problem of limited capacity at the South East’s airports is also due to report back.
While improving links to Stansted Airport would not solve the problem of easing the pressure on Heathrow, which depends on transfer passengers, Barton believes it could help to increase trade between the UK and the rest of Europe. Stansted also lies in a region with many SMEs.
Barton has called for an additional track to be laid between Liverpool Street and Stansted to accommodate express trains, although he is also willing to look at other ways to reduce journey times and boost reliability.
Planned improvements to Stansted Airport’s rail links to the capital would also have a favourable impact on the airport’s asking price in the event its owner, BAA, is forced to sell it by regulators.
The Competition Commission ordered BAA to sell three of its airports, including Stansted, in 2009. However, BAA is currently fighting against the ruling.