LACK OF PLANNING A THREAT TO LONDON'S ROLE AS HUB

LACK OF PLANNING A THREAT TO LONDON'S ROLE AS HUB

The role of London's Heathrow Airport as a crossroads of the world for air passenger and cargo traffic is threatened by the absence of a development strategy for southeast of England airports beyond 1995, a report published Wednesday has warned.

Government policy to meet only part of the anticipated growth of demand at Heathrow and nearby Gatwick Airport and to cover the deficiency by diversion of traffic to other airports could reduce the attractiveness of Heathrow interchange facilities, claimed the report by the Civil Engineering Economic Development Committee (EDC).The committee recommends, in particular, that a rail link should be established between London and Heathrow to help eliminate the increasingly unpredictable travel times by road.

The advantages of a rail link to Heathrow must be seriously considered if it is to maintain its competitive position against airports such as Frankfurt and Zurich which already have them, it claims.

The report also warns that in view of the long lead times in airport development, an early decision is needed on whether to build a fifth terminal at Heathrow to enable expansion by the mid-1990s. This is particularly important as Heathrow and Gatwick together handle about two-thirds of U.K. air passengers and and an even greater 80 percent of air freight.

Airports, government and other agencies also need to work more closely to overcome problems relating to speeding up customs and excise clearance, adds the EDC.

It also calls for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to carry out a review of all British airport facilities to identify areas where more investment is needed to meet demand growth.

The committee is one of several covering different industrial sectors operating within the National Economic Development Council (NEDC), a tripartite group made up of government, industry and trade union members.