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Manston Airport plans could trigger game-changing trade route through River Thames

Ambitious plans to connect a proposed airport development with a new trade route to the capital could see the light of day.

According to Tony Freudmann, director of RiverOak Strategic Partners, which owns the former Manston Airport site, reopening it for inbound cargo could kick start an innovative method of transporting goods to London.

Tony Freudmann believes the aiport would significantly boost the local economy
Tony Freudmann believes the aiport would significantly boost the local economy

Planes carrying cargo inbound for the airport could be trucked down to the Ramsgate port, shipped along the coast and up through the River Thames.

Mr Freudmann said: "At the moment the Thames is used for taking construction materials up into London for building and taking waste out.

"There are 16 wharfs in London that are available for commercial use right up to Hammersmith and beyond.

"They have said they would be very interested in working with us for inbound cargo."

He added: "They've been experimenting with electrically operated vessels; I'm told that some now operate on the Danube and on the Rhine and in parts of Scandinavia."

Listen to Tony Freudmann discuss the plans for Manston Airport on the KM Community Podcast

A spokesman from the Port of London Authority said: "In recent weeks the Port of London Authority has had some outline discussions on possible future ways the River Thames might be used to move certain types of freight and packages that have first arrived at Manston by air.

"The discussions are at a very preliminary stage – researching and scoping out the type of cargo that might be moved into London from Thanet in this way.

"But the PLA always welcomes constructive approaches to make more use of the Thames for waterborne freight – not least as part of other successful initiatives to get lorries and vans off the busy roads and motorways of London and the south east".

Mr Freudmann said: "It would all be totally carbon neutral; the potential is huge and it could potentially bring the port of Ramsgate back to life."

If the plans went ahead, RSP believes it could ease the flow of trucks transporting goods on the county's roads such as the M20 and M2.

The terminal building would be scrapped and rebuilt
The terminal building would be scrapped and rebuilt

The redevelopment of Manston has not been without its fair share of controversy, with some wondering if plans can succeed after the huge financial losses which forced the airport to close in 2014.

But Mr Freudmann said the key to success, something its previous owners failed to understand, is significantly growing the infrastructure of the airport to make it commercially viable.

Before the airport closed there was only enough space to house two large aircraft at a time, limiting the number of planes that were able to arrive and depart.

Under the new development proposals, the number of aircraft stands could total 23 by the end of Phase 4, which as of now would not be completed until 2036 at the earliest.

Part of the proposed development would see most of the site scrapped and re-tarmacked.
Part of the proposed development would see most of the site scrapped and re-tarmacked.

Speaking on the KM Community Podcast, he said: "Right now it's like having a nice hotel where you've got 50 bedrooms, but only three bedrooms can be used. It just doesn't work."

The redevelopment of the site would also need to include re-tarmacking large sections which are no longer compliant for landing aircraft due to their incompatible gradients.

An extensive plan to increase the number of hangar bays would also mean more cargo planes can arrive and depart simultaneously, increasing the revenue the airport would make.

The initial redevelopment costs are estimated to hit upwards of £300 million.

As well as a prominent cargo hub, RSP hopes to return Manston to a passenger airport by enticing low cost airliners like Ryanair.

A new air traffic control tower could be added as part of the scheme.
A new air traffic control tower could be added as part of the scheme.

The passenger service would bring back trips to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, as well as other popular destinations.

Mr Freudmann said: "It equates to about a million or a million-and-a-half passengers, which is a nice business for us.

"It provides a much-needed facility for people living in east Kent who otherwise have to travel to Gatwick or Stansted or further afield, and we think we can make that work."

Once up and running the airport could be dealing with 4-5 aircraft taking off an hour, with an 11pm curfew excluding late departures.

The decision on whether to give the go ahead to RSP's development plans now sits with central government, which has extended the deadline until May.

The cafe in the passenger terminal used to be a busy spot for greeting new arrivals
The cafe in the passenger terminal used to be a busy spot for greeting new arrivals

This comes as a Kent MP urged government to give the green light to the Manston development, after a court decision scrapped plans for a third runway to be built at Heathrow Airport.

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale said: "Post-Brexit Britain is going to need additional air freight and passenger capacity of the kind that Manston can offer swiftly.

"The UK is losing business to Schiphol, Charles de Gaulle, Frankfurt and Dubai and that cannot be allowed to continue if we are to prosper as a trading nation after December 31."

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