The long-running debate around airport capacity in the South East of England has damaged regional airports that are in need of investment to expand and help rebalance the economy, the chief executive of Bristol airport has said.
Speaking to BBT, Robert Sinclair (pictured) said he wants improvements to road and rail links to the main airport that serves the South West and South Wales.
However, he sees a “direct correlation” between the problems at Heathrow and the lack of investment to the airport, which is the only top 10 UK airport without a rail link or dual carriageway access.
“There is proposed mainline connections into Heathrow from Bristol but at a £500 million cost to the taxpayer, and we need a fraction of that investment to start providing the capacity to address the demands in the region in which it arises,” said Sinclair.
“You can’t have an aviation strategy that is consolidated around London, you need to have one that spreads the benefit of what we do and how we provide it across the UK and that’s our key message to ministers.
“They have to have a strategy that helps to rebalance the economy and support the regions. To do this you need to ensure access around the country not just all into one single airport,” he said.
Sinclair’s comments follow research by the airport that claims £182 million has been lost over the past four years by passengers choosing to fly out of the main London airports instead of their local airport.
It found that last year alone, business passengers lost £82 million - £67 per business traveller. The study showed that much of this “leakage” was for short-haul travel.
“Across the aviation sector in the past few years there has been such political sensitivity and focus on the whole south east capacity debate, it has sucked up all of the goodwill and government resources from an aviation perspective,” said Sinclair.
“We have had to stand down for the past decade while politicians, ministers and government officials decide and prevaricate what they are going to do about Heathrow. And even Heathrow has woken up to the fact it’s not sensible for the balance of the industry just to pause and wait, while we focus on one airport,” he added.
However, Sinclair said he is remaining optimistic and a recent visit from government transport officials saw them “clearly impressed” with the airport and served as a reminder to how “critical” this investment is.