London mayor Boris Johnson will order a feasibility study into expanding Stansted airport into a four-runway ‘superhub’ airport, indicating his potential backing for the scheme to prevent further development at Heathrow.
Mr Johnson will submit the £3m study to the inquiry into South east aviation capacity being undertaken by Sir Howard Davies next year, according to The Times.
Stansted is becoming a compromise solution within the Conservative party for improving airport capacity following internal disagreements and rivalry over a preferred option, says the paper.
Mr Johnson previously called for Heathrow to be closed and replaced by an airport built on an artificial island in the Thames estuary, but has said he sees expansion at Stansted as the only realistic alternative if his island idea is found uneconomic or impractical.
In October Make architects published plans for building up to three new runways at Stansted airport, which it said would be a viable way to reduce pressure on Heathrow.
The firm said Stansted could handle some 150m passengers a year if it had four runways and could be linked by rail to Heathrow, using the Crossrail line, allowing passengers to make connections between flights at the two airports.
Make said it was working with engineers to investigate the proposal in greater detail, but had not yet finalised its plans. It is promoting the idea itself and not on behalf of any client, a spokeswoman said.
The airport’s operating company has started detailed work to consider its options, but will stick to an agreement prohibiting the development of a second runway before 2019.
The masterplan outlined plans to invest £1 billion in infrastructure between 2014 and 2020 through a series of improvements to its runway, taxi areas and two passenger terminals. Under the plan, Gatwick expected to increase its passenger capacity to 40 million from the current level of 33m.