The global financial crisis has delayed plans to run more passenger services out of Kent International Airport. But airport chiefs, confident it is a short-term dip, have published a master plan that foresees gradual expansion over the next 20 years to around six million passengers a year. Freight operations are forecast to reach 400,000 tonnes. Matt Clarke, KIA chief executive, said:
“Like most businesses in the UK aviation marketplace our business has felt the impact of the recession. Our air cargo business has proved itself to be resilient but the recent market activity has delayed our plans for passenger service expansion in 2009. We do not expect medium or long-term growth in demand to be affected by the current economic climate, but the milestones contained in the Master Plan have been pushed out to account for the impact of the recession on the first few years of our forecasts. The revised figures are realistic and attainable within the Master Plan period.”
The downturn hitting aviation business has prompted planners to defer growth expectations at Manston, with Infratil, the airport’s New Zealand-based operator, now forecasting 2.2 million passengers in 2018 instead of the 2.7m originally predicted. The forecast for 2033 has come down from 5.7m to 4.7m.
The master plan – which updates a draft published in October 2008 – also includes fresh information on domestic high-speed trains and how they impact on journey times to London. It backs highway improvements in the £90m East Kent Access programme, and features more detail on environmental controls.
With some small expansion, the existing terminal will accommodate growth to around one million passengers but beyond that a new terminal would be needed. This would trigger a new access road to the terminal, closure of the B2050 to through traffic and a new through road build through the airport’s northern land.
The final plan follows a lengthy consultation process. More than 400 contributions were received from members of the public and KIA managers say the feedback has been “considered and incorporated into the final document where appropriate”. Mr Clarke added:
“For the first time in its long history, the airport now has a clear blueprint for the future. I thank those who contributed to our consultation process as we are grateful for the feedback we received. We are very pleased to present our plan to those stakeholders to communicate the shape of things to come. Our plan defines our commitment to the development of air services in Thanet, Kent and the wider South East and details how we intend to develop the Manston site into a thriving regional airport.”
kentonline 3rd Dec 2009