WITH more than half a million expected to arrive in the UK for the Olympics, the Government has earmarked Lydd Airport as one of the regional airports capable of handling flights carrying visitors to the 2012 Games.
Air traffic is traditionally very busy over the summer and with the Olympic and Paralympic Games also taking place, Whitehall transport chiefs have been anxious to ensure that air travel in and out of the South East of England is managed efficiently.
An added headache for planners is next year’s Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, when large numbers of Heads of State and VIPs are arriving for the celebrations in London.
An official review of airports with suitable facilities located within a 75-mile radius of the Olympic Park at Stratford has led to approximately a dozen airports being deemed as suitable to handle flights linked to the Games.
Lydd is one of these and has been rated as capable of handling up to 238 general and business aviation flights during the peak period of the Olympic Games – from 21 July to 15 August 2012.
Philip Hammond, the Secretary of State for Transport, said that as part of the Government’s strategy to ensure successful delivery of efficient transport services for the Games, he was introducing measures to limit delays to flights using airports in the South East during the period of peak demand.
New rules will ensure that air space capacity over the South East will be able to accommodate the maximum possible number of extra flights, while minimising the risk of disruption to existing summer services. All flights using one of the designated airports like Lydd will need to obtain, and operate in accordance with, pre-booked take-off or landing slots.
A spokesman for Lydd Airport said: “We are delighted to be playing our part in welcoming UK and overseas visitors to next year’s Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“Lydd is ideally located to welcome visitors to who are heading to the Games. Flights travelling in and out of Lydd will avoid the busy air traffic control zones further inland towards London, ensuring a rapid and trouble-free travel experience for our passengers.
“We expect many passengers arriving at Lydd to make full use of the high-speed rail link from Ashford International Station to Stratford, which takes just 31 minutes. The airport will be arranging a shuttle bus to whisk passengers to Ashford for their onward journey, giving them one of the fastest available transfers to the Games.”
There has been a commercial airport at Lydd for 57 years, with the airport handling up to a quarter of a million passengers a year in its heydays of the 1950s.
In recent years, around £30m has been invested to turn Lydd into a modern regional airport. Improvements include resurfacing and strengthening the runway, upgrading instrument landing systems and runway lighting systems, enhanced fire and emergency services teams, a new aircraft parking apron covering a 13 acre site and a new business aviation lounge.
A public inquiry into Lydd’s £25m plans to extend the runway and build a new terminal will conclude in September, with a decision expected from the Government early next year.