Sir Richard Branson in Heathrow third runway call

Sir Richard Branson said business was going to Europe because of the UK's lack of airport capacity

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Virgin Atlantic owner Sir Richard Branson has said it would be better to expand Heathrow than build an airport in the Thames estuary.

Sir Richard said more airport capacity was urgently needed and all options, including Heathrow, must be considered.

The government scrapped plans for a third runway at Heathrow two years ago and plans are now being considered for an airport in the Thames.

Sir Richard said building an airport in the Thames could take 20 years.

'Grinding halt'

But he said there were question marks over the feasibility of building an airport in the river.

In an interview with BBC South East, he said: "In the meantime, Great Britain comes to to a full stop because there is no more capacity at Heathrow, Gatwick is pretty well full, and much of the business is now going to France and Germany."

Start Quote

By all means build an estuary airport but in the meantime don't crucify the country”

End Quote Sir Richard Branson

The business tycoon said: "Virgin Atlantic has come to a grinding halt.

"We can't get any more routes and we could be creating thousands and thousands of jobs."

And he added: "By all means build an estuary airport but in the meantime don't crucify the country, and put another runway in until this airport is built."

'Fares will rise'

Sir Richard said: "We desperately need the capacity. We cannot fly to South America. We cannot fly to Beijing. We cannot fly to a whole lot of new American cities, a lot of African cities, we just can't compete.

"We desperately need more competition, otherwise fares will go up and up and up.

"Whatever governments decide we will support in the end, but we're not going to be irresponsible and not make our views felt about what we think."

Transport Secretary Justine Greening is expected to announce a new airport capacity review later this month, including the possibility of a new airport on reclaimed land in the Thames estuary.

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