Sarah Bishop, deputy director of aviation policy at the Department for Transport (DfT), has warned that a third runway at Heathrow will not be enough to keep pace with the UK’s growing passenger demand over the next 30 years.

Bishop said at a meeting of the Westminster energy, environment and transport forum that the estimates for passenger numbers made three years ago are ‘already out of date’, claiming that demand for air travel is growing 10 per cent faster than assumed.

Even with a third runway at Heathrow, Bishop predicted the UK will face “capacity constraints” again by 2050. She said “there may be a need for a runway beyond that looking out to 2050”, according to The Times.

With both Heathrow and Gatwick airports reporting yet another month of passenger growth in October and IATA predicting 8.2 billion air travellers in 2037, demand for air travel could continue to grow in the coming decade.

Bishop said the government will release the Aviation Strategy Green Paper, which will consult on the decision-making process for delivering a further runway in the UK by 2050.

While the current government has ruled out building a fourth runway at Heathrow, Gatwick airport has revealed a proposal to use its existing emergency air strip as a second runway to increase capacity, although both airports are facing opposition from local and environmental bodies.

Commenting on Paul McGuinness, chair of the No 3rd Runway Coalition, said: “With the financial and legal challenges of Heathrow’s third runway far from overcome, this new option for another runway is likely to bedevil Heathrow’s plans going forward, bringing a fresh dimension of doubt to the current project.

“It truly beggars belief that a further runway is even being mooted. Given environmental targets are struggling to be met with the existing Heathrow plans, yet another new runway would make a laughing stock of the UK’s commitment to the environment. Maybe the government is having its own doubts on Heathrow and is trying to find a way out.”

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