By James O'Brien
Major airports in the south of England are not making full use of their capacity, a London Assembly report shows.
The assembly's transport committee has revealed that while 99 per cent of airport capacity at Heathrow was in use, 20 million additional passengers could fly each year if larger aircraft were used.
Last summer, almost half of runway take-off and landing slots available to Stansted airport were not used, while approximately five per cent of slots available to Luton airport were not taken. Twelve per cent of slots at Gatwick airport were not used.
In a bid to ensure passengers are making use of all the airports rather than simply Heathrow, the report suggested improving transport links from central London to Gatwick, Luton and Stansted.
According to the report, Stansted bosses believe the airport would welcome an additional 1.5 million passengers each year if the rail journey from London took 30 minutes rather than 45.
In 2010, 127 million people travelled from London's airports and the majority, including those flying from Heathrow, flew straight to their destinations. The report stated the figures "may question arguments for the need for an additional hub airport to boost London's economy".
The London Assembly report was published as the Airport Commission considers airport capacity in the UK. Whitehall is set to receive the commission's initial report before the end of this year, with a final reported expected in summer 2015.
London Assembly transport committee chairman Caroline Pidgeon said the Airport Commission needs to look into whether it would be better served making use of existing airport capacity rather than splashing out for new airports or runways.
"The need for additional hub capacity is also under debate, with strong data showing rather than runway capacity limiting airlines ability to fly to emerging markets, it could be low passenger demand from each airport's geographical area," she said.
"As 700,000 residents already suffer from noise pollution as a result of Heathrow flights, we also hope that any plans to expand Heathrow can soon be laid to rest."
At present, 130 million travellers pass through London airports each year. Ms Pidgeon feels the Government and those making the decisions must find the best way to boost Britain's economy without making noise and air pollution worse for Londoners.
"In the short term, using existing capacity in a smarter way may be the most cost-effective solution," she added.