China says it wants London's Heathrow Airport to expand

LONDON (Reuters) - China wants London's Heathrow Airport to expand its capacity so that Chinese airlines can introduce more flights between China and Britain, China's ambassador to Britain said on Friday, saying he had written to the government about the issue.

Speaking ahead of a visit to London next week by China's Premier Li Keqiang, the ambassador said the lack of capacity was a problem for three Chinese carriers who wanted to increase the number of slots they had.

"We'd like to see an increase in capacity in Heathrow Airport," Mr Liu Xiaoming, China's ambassador to Britain, told a news conference in London. He said the British government had told him the airport, the world's third-busiest by passenger numbers, had reached capacity. "We expect Heathrow will have a third runway," he added.

British lawmakers and business leaders have identified the lack of new airport capacity as a possible drag on economic growth and agree that the country urgently needs new runways. But the idea of adding them in London is unpopular with many voters, who worry about noise, pollution and safety.

Britain's Airport Commission is due to make a final recommendation on where and how to expand London's airport capacity by next summer.

Heathrow Airport Holdings is co-owned by Spanish infrastructure company Ferrovial, its largest shareholder with a 25 per cent share. Partners include Qatar Holding, China Investment Corp. and the Government of Singapore Investment Corp.

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