Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Why Not Manston? (AS 118)

1. Our organisation was set up in August of 2012, and adopted a Constitution in late October. The group was established to demonstrate the importance and the ease of increasing the use of Manston Airport in north-east Kent. At the moment it is mainly used for cargo transport, with very few services for passengers. That situation will change in April 2013, when Air France/KLM will be running regular flights to Schiphol Airport (see our para 4 below). We also intend to show that it is quite unnecessary to build any Estuary Airport, when Manston is already there, less than twenty miles from the proposed site of the Estuary Airport.

2. We submitted evidence on the Government Consultation Document on Aviation Strategy, in time for their deadline of 31 October. We are delighted that the Commons Transport Committee is holding its own discussions on the matter, with an earlier deadline. Unfortunately we were not aware of your separate enquiry until 19 November, when the oral evidence from your first set of witnesses was publicized. Our evidence below is based on the Government Consultation Document on Aviation Strategy. We take some of the items numbered in this Document and give our comments on those.

3. In Item 1.2 the Document refers to communities living close to an airport, and says that they must be consulted. During our first three months of existence, from August to October 2012, we acquired 300 supporters, and one third of them live in Ramsgate and Margate, right under the flight path for Manston. So despite their proximity to the airport, many locals are keen and eager to see Manston more widely used.

4. Item 1.10 refers to the importance of airports connecting in some way with a major hub. On 13 November 2012 Air France/KLM announced that KLM is going to start regular flights to and from Manston to Schiphol in Holland from April 2013. Schiphol is a major hub only 40 minutes flight time from Manston.

5. Item 1.17 The Document says how important it is to limit and reduce the number of people significantly affected by aircraft noise. One of the beauties of Manston is that it is surrounded on three sides by sea. So only a quarter of its flights are likely to affect local inhabitants by aircraft noise. However, only a quarter of that quarter of flights is likely to create noise, because of the prevailing wind patterns. In effect, the vast majority of the flights from Manston take off and land over open countryside. For more detail on this, see the Night Flights page of our current website. When it comes to flights at night, where concerns have been raised, the number of such flights likely to cause a noise nuisance would amount to just one such flight every other night: hardly a major cause for concern.

6. Item 1.24 refers to aviation safety. With so many planes queuing to land at Heathrow and Gatwick, there is the ever-present danger of a collision, or even planes running out of fuel while being forced to stack. That is a particular worry when, as does happen, an entire runway at Heathrow is out of use because of a technical problem on the ground. At Manston, with so few flights, dangers of such a collision are negligible. But even if a plane did crash to the ground, it would almost certainly fall in an empty field. This contrasts with the Heathrow area, where any such plane crash-landing within five miles of Heathrow would be likely to kill or injure hundreds of people on the ground. So greater use of Manston could substantially improve safety, both in the air and on the ground. (continued . . .)

7. Item 2.11 considers how to reduce the delays and disruption caused by things not working smoothly. That surely applies not just to delays at Heathrow itself, but delays in reaching it via the M25, which is at capacity in the mornings, when many of the flights take off and land. There are no such delays at Manston in the airport, where checking-in takes ten minutes and departure is within the hour. Nor is there any reason to expect delays in the motorway or rail connections with Manston.

8. Item 2.22 talks about connectivity with a major airport nearby. See our para 4 above, with the new service by KLM using Manston, which is only 40 minutes flight time from Schiphol.

9. Item 2.30 talks about the SE Airports Taskforce and its report, which was published in July 2011. However, this Taskforce was set up to consider only Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted as “London airports”. No consideration was taken of other airports in the London region. In fact, it is just as reasonable to consider Luton as another “London airport”, and in that case, it is equally logical to consider Manston in the same light. Manston is situated next to a major motorway from London: the M2, and, by 2014 the High Speed Rail Line from St Pancras will reach Ramsgate in under an hour. Ramsgate is five minutes taxi ride from Manston. (For an estimated £10 million, the nearby railway could have a station right inside the Manston terminal.)

10. Item 2.65 quotes major developments and infrastructure improvements at no less than ten regional airports, but does not even mention Manston, with its major infrastructure improvements described above. However, part of the reason why Manston does not need major improvements to the airport is that it already offers so much. In fact, it has the widest runway in the country (and one of the longest), and can already accommodate the largest aircraft in the world, flying into this country.

11. So much so, that when Concorde was flying, Manston was designated as the emergency runway for Concorde, if such an emergency arose. It was also designated as the emergency runway for the Space Shuttle, if weather conditions prevented that magnificent monster from landing in California. There is a large amount of room for expansion around Manston. In fact, there is also no practical, environmental, or local population reason why Manston could not easily be provided with a second runway, if one were needed.

12. Lastly, a survey was undertaken by KLM and the Airport in the summer of 2012. Of over 9000 replies, 96% said they would be happy to fly from Manston if given the opportunity to do so. We can have no doubt that the inhabitants of East and Mid-Kent would be delighted if it were possible to fly abroad from East Kent, rather than have to drive for two hours halfway around the M25 to the other side of London, where their “nearest” airport is at the moment. Manston is within an hour’s drive from that entire area of East and Mid-Kent.

29 November 2012

Prepared 24th May 2013