Making the best use of Manston’s existing runway, officially designating it as a ‘reliever airport’ for Heathrow and Gatwick, and reducing Air Passenger Duty for regional airports, would help support the growth of the Kent airport, according to its operators, as the rest of the South East Airport’s system becomes increasingly congested over the next 10-15 years.

Plans for the long term future of Manston Airport have been submitted to the Airports Commission, as part of the work being undertaken to review airport capacity in the South East and the long term potential options for maintaining the UK’s status as a major centre for international aviation.

The airport operator envisages that Manston could be welcoming 10 million passengers per year by 2033, and up to 16 million passengers and 1 million tonnes of freight by 2050, by taking low-cost passenger and freight traffic from the region’s congested airports, and providing a maintenance repair and overhaul service for the South East.

Charles Buchanan, chief executive of Manston Airport, said: “There’s been much discussion about the construction of new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, and plans for a four runway hub airport on the Isle of Grain or in the Thames Estuary. One of the key challenges facing the Commission is how they tackle the issue of deliverability, and it is therefore vital that the potential of the smaller regional airports in the South East of England is given serious consideration.

“Most acknowledge that no new runways will be delivered within 10 or 15 years, if not longer. The real danger is that the competitiveness of the South East and London will be compromised, so it is essential that in the interim we make the best use of those runways and airports that have already been built. Manston is available for growth now.”

As a ‘reliever aiport’ for London, Manston would operate in the same way that Stewart, White Plans, McArthur and Atlantic City airports do serving the New York state area enabling the airports of JFK, La Guardia and Newark to operate to maximum efficiency.

Manston presents an excellent opportunity for freight operators thanks to its dual carriageway links to the M25 and its freight centre which is widely acknowledged as amongst the fastest in the world.

Charles Buchanan added: “Last year Heathrow handled 2,378 dedicated freight charters. These could be redirected to Manston to act as a dedicated South East freight hub, thereby freeing up important capacity at the UK’s busiest airport.”

As part of the proposals, Manston has also outlined how it could support development beyond the airport’s perimeter fence. In addition to the currently planned upgrading of the line between Ashford and Ramsgate, the airport is proposing that a new 140mph High Speed Railway line be constructed by 2030 along the North Kent Coast from Ebbsfleet, connecting the Medway Towns with the airport and Ramsgate, a distance of approximately 40 miles.

Charles Buchanan added: “Putting Manston within 45 minutes by train of London, as well as Stratford, Ebbsfleet and other key Kent, Medway, and South East London commuter towns, would significantly improve the connectivity of the airport within its natural catchment area, and strengthen the overall resilience of the region’s airport network.

“By investing in High Speed rail services on the north Kent line, Manston could be developed to handle in excess of 20 million passengers per year, at a cost per million passengers significantly below the costs associated with adding runways at other airports. More importantly it would also capture substantial direct benefits for the Kent, as well as the wider national, economy.”

With this is mind, an ‘Airport Campus’ is also included within the submission to the Airports Commission. It would provide a mix of commercial development, education facilities with a focus on supporting the aviation industry, hotels, conference facilities, and an integrated residential village and associated retail space.

Recognising that there will be increased opportunities to improve the environmental performance of the aviation industry, the Manston proposals include the use of biomass and solar power provision to deliver a sustainable energy source, with the aim of ultimately making the operation of the airport carbon neutral.

Charles Buchanan concluded: “When measured against the Commission’s criteria of deliverability, operational viability, cost and economic impact, we believe that Manston is well placed to play its part in meeting the demand for airport capacity now.”

Further information on Manston’s submission to the Airport Commission can be found at

Download an executive summary of the proposals.


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