When An Airport Closes

Plymouth, a city with a population of around 250 000 people, and the largest city on the south coast of England is to loose its airport. The airport opened in the 1920s to the north of the city with a relatively short runway built on a hill. The runways were grass until 1975 and 1986 when they were converted to a tarmac surface. For a detailed airport history see this link. Perhaps Plymouth can pioneer some alternatives that are sustainable and fulfil the vital transport links outside of the region?

The context: the city airport is just 20 minutes from the city centre.

Plymouth City Airport Location© CC-BY-SA OpenStreetMap & Contributors

On the 28 July 2011 the last commercial flight flew and the airport is now set to close altogether. Passengers are, temporarily, being transported by bus to Newquay airport in Cornwall until the end of Air Southwest operations in September 2011. There seems to be no viability in an airport with such as short runway.

So what next? There will have to be more sustainable travel options for the area such as better rail services to get people to and from the city. Currently the rail link is slow to Exeter and to Cornwall. The council are lobbying the government to improve rail links and will protect the airport site, at least in the short term. Perhaps Plymouth can prove that a city can flourish in a sustainable manner without an airport? Is this the first of many closures as a new dawn on transport rises from the ashes of an aviation industry that was at its peak before peak oil back in the last century? The council have tried to hold on to their airport but three different consultants have all stated that there was no economic rationale in keeping this airport open. The people of Plymouth will have to travel to Exeter or Newquay should they wish to fly in the future. Alternatively the people of Plymouth can try some other modes of transport that offer fewer carbon dioxide emissions.

It seems that the airport has been a victim of economics, location constraints and a lack of flexibility when it comes to offering options for large charter flight aircraft. The final irony of is that the airport web site has a new feature – Live Flight Arrival and Departures. Clicking the link reveals none: “Sorry, there are currently no scheduled flights at Plymouth Airport.”
Website for the closed airport at Plymouth


About mappedit

Geographical practitioner with an interest in climate change, open mapping, sustainability, the transition movement, transport and many other things.
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