Stansted owner faces monopoly probe

BAA - owner of Stansted - is to have its monopoly of London's airports put under the microscope by the Competition Commission.The Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) protest group today welcomed the news that a possible break-up of the BAA monopoly will be considered during its investigation.

BAA - owner of Stansted - is to have its monopoly of London's airports put under the microscope by the Competition Commission.

The Stop Stansted Expansion (SSE) protest group today welcomed the news that a possible break-up of the BAA monopoly will be considered during its investigation.

SSE economics adviser Brian Ross said: “Together with almost every major UK airline, SSE has long argued that it is anti-competitive for BAA to have a stranglehold over London's airports through its ownership of Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted - the UK's three biggest airports - as well as Southampton.

“BAA's dominance has also led to an unhealthy influence over the Department of Transport who many believe to dance to the tune of 'what BAA wants, BAA gets'.”

The Evening Star is opposing further expansion of Stansted airport - both its current application to add ten million extra passengers a year on 23,000 more flights and its plans for a second runway, which could add 300,000 planes to the skies.

The airport's expansion of cheap flights to European destinations is having an intolerable impact on Suffolk - with most flights going over the county, generating noise and pollution.

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Stephen Nelson, chief executive of BAA, welcomed the commission's review of the UK airport market and airport charges.

“Our analysis is that the fundamental problem for passengers is lack of capacity, not the structure of BAA,” he said.

A new terminal would open at Heathrow next year and then work would start on another. At Stansted, planning for a new runway and terminal was progressing well and a formal planning application would be submitted later this year.

“Putting BAA in the dock for a complex set of problems - with deep legacy causes - will not help solve them. As well as tackling the immediate issue of queuing times, we are ready to make major, long-term investments in British airports - that will free the travelling public from congestion and provide a good experience at our airports, all for a few extra pounds per passenger.”

The commission will look at a wide range of issues, including whether BAA's market domination affects its willingness to invest in, develop and operate its airports, customer service, and constraints on capacity in terms of runways, terminals and other facilities.

“At this stage, we have no preconceived ideas of what our conclusions might be; and if we were to identify competition problems, what the appropriate remedies might be,” said a commission spokesman.

Do you think more planes should be allowed to fly over Suffolk? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

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