June 17, 2008

Call for Cutback to Airport Expansion

By Andrew Picken

Green campaigners say high oil price will stop millions flying

GREEN campaigners are calling for plans to expand Edinburgh Airport to be scaled back in the wake of soaring oil prices.

Airport operator BAA estimates Edinburgh Airport could almost treble in size over the coming decades with land being reserved for a possible second runway.

But research by environmental charity WWF has concluded that millions of passengers will be put off flying due to higher ticket prices caused by soaring oil prices.

Government and airport chiefs today dismissed the claims and said the price of oil was just one factor which will impact on future passenger growth. They argue that projected economic growth over the coming decades will see an increase in demand for flights, including a big jump in business travel.

Latest Government figures estimate that up to 22.5 million passengers a year will be using Edinburgh Airport by 2030. This forecast is based on an assumption that oil prices today are only dollars 60 a barrel - some dollars 70 cheaper than actual prices.

WWF calculations claim that even with a conservative assumption of dollars 106 a barrel in 2030 there will be a 15 per cent reduction in the growth of air passengers from Edinburgh, some three million less than first thought.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, said: "The UK Government's projections for passenger numbers are pie in the sky, based on estimated oil prices which border on the fantastical.

"Given how dodgy the Government's figures are, every airport in the UK needs to look again at their own plans for expansion.

"The planet can't afford and Edinburgh doesn't need an additional runway.

"Instead we should be helping cut climate-wrecking air travel wherever possible."

Edinburgh Airport was last year crowned as Scotland's busiest and carries nearly nine million passengers per annum.

This is projected to grow to 13 million by 2013 and airport bosses have plans for GBP 1 billion worth of expansion work.

A spokesman for Edinburgh Airport said: "Our long-term forecasts are based on a wide range of economic factors, of which the price of oil is just one.

Our forecasts suggest that passenger numbers will continue to grow at Edinburgh over the period."

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: "The department's forecasts set out in 'UK Air Passenger Demand and CO2 Forecasts' demonstrate the long-term growth in the UK and world economy will generate increasing demand for business travel.

"There remains a strong need for additional airport capacity in the UK."

Originally published by Andrew Picken Transport Reporter.

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