Essex

London Southend Airport opens station and control tower

A new control tower at London Southend Airport has been officially opened as train services to its new railway station began.

The £3m tower, which was opened by Minister for the Thames Gateway Bob Neill MP, has been operational since the beginning of April.

The railway station, on the Southend Victoria to London line, will be run by the airport's owner, The Stobart Group.

The developments are the latest step in the airport's expansion plans.

It hopes to boost passenger numbers to two million a year by 2020 and last month signed a deal with low-cost airline Easyjet to operate 70 flights a week from the site from next April.

First arrival

Work to extend the runway by 300 metres is under way and a new terminal building is due to be completed by this autumn.

The 105ft (32m) high control tower has been fitted with the latest technology and provides air traffic controllers with improved views of the runway.

It replaced the 1960s tower which was only intended to be a temporary structure.

The first train to stop at the new £12m station arrived from Southend Victoria station at 0405 BST.

The station, between Prittlewell and Rochford, has been ready for several months, but a lack of "final agreements" from the Department of Transport delayed its opening.

Jonny Rayner, head of business development at Stobart Air, said it was an "extremely significant" day for the airport.

He said: "The opening of the railway station obviously gives us a connectivity to London that we've been talking to people about for some time.

"Obviously the control tower has been built for some time now, but to actually be able to officially open it today is a great day for the airport."

Rail operator National Express East Anglia said the new stop would add about two minutes to the existing journey.

It is the first new station to open in Essex since Braintree Freeport in 1999.

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