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Heathrow sees stronger than expected passenger numbers

Heathrow Airport is seeing stronger than expected passenger numbers amid uncertainty in the UK economy.

The west London hub reported a 4.8% increase in adjusted earnings in 2016 to £1.7 billion, which it said reflected a reduction in costs and strong retail income growth.

Some 75.7 million passengers used the airport last year, up 1% on 2015.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said : "There's certainly stronger growth than we had expected.

"We've seen that continue into January and February. More people are travelling.

"We've seen them spending more while they're here. Sales per passenger in our stores and car parks is up 7% and part of that is people taking advantage of exchange rates in the UK.

"It's better value for outbound passengers to buy here than at their destination, better value for inbound passengers to buy here than where they're coming from."

Earlier this month, the Government published a consultation on its draft national policy statement (NPS) which sets out why a third runway at Heathrow is its preferred option for boosting airport capacity in south-east England.

Mr Holland-Kaye said: "It's a genuine consultation. The Government wants to get the views of all interested parties locally, nationally, to make sure we've got absolutely the right plan put before Parliament later this year.

"We're confident we will get the vote in Parliament to support the national policy statement and in the mean time we're getting on with our own planning application."

A report by the Commons' cross-party Environmental Audit Committee published on Thursday warned that the Government is still not doing enough to demonstrate it can mitigate the environmental impacts of a third runway.

Air quality, carbon emissions and aircraft noise must all be given further attention before expansion goes ahead, it said.

The Department for Transport insisted that the third runway will not be built unless "air quality requirements" can be met, and added that a "world-class package" is being proposed to limit the environmental impact of the project.

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