SCOTLAND'S busiest airport has drastically scaled back expansion plans in the face of the global economic downturn and is not likely to need a second runway in the next 30 years, it emerged yesterday.
A new masterplan mapping out Edinburgh Airport's possible growth has revealed a much smaller number of passengers than had been predicted are expected to use it in future.
Operator BAA had previously expected to handle 14 million passengers by 2013 and projected 26 million people using the airport by 2030.
However, the downturn, uncertainty about how international air traffic will grow and the scrapping of the Edinburgh Airport Rail Link have all been blamed after it emerged that passenger numbers are expected to grow from the current nine million to just 12.3 million by 2020.
The airport - now the fifth busiest in the UK - was also supposed to be served by the capital's long-delayed tram network by next month.
Looking further ahead, passenger numbers are now only projected to increase to 20.5 million and that this figure may not be reached until as late as 2040.
BAA yesterday admitted a second runway may not even be needed by then, while it has also revealed that it no longer needs to expand on to a third of the site currently used for the Royal Highland Show.
Organisers of the money-spinning event had drawn up 350 million relocation plans to a new site to make way for the expanded airport.
Official predictions by airport operator BAA have revealed that the number of "runway movements" by planes is expected to rise from the current level of 32 an hour to 42 by 2020.
BAA said its existing runway could handle a further increase of 53 plane movements per hour - which may not happen until 2040, according to its forecasts.
A new draft masterplan, which will be put out to consultation for several months, says two hangars, several new parking stands and new cargo facilities will be needed to handle the growth of about 3.3 million passengers between now and 2020.
BAA said the recently completed 40m overhaul of its main terminal building meant it could handle about 13 million passengers, so any new facilities were expected to be created within its existing boundary.
The masterplan states: "The second element looks at how, and where, we propose to grow between 2020 and 2040.
"Beyond 2020 the plan is less detailed, because of the difficulty in being absolutely certain about how air traffic will grow over that period. Growth is, however, likely to lead to expansion beyond our current boundary."
Kevin Brown, the airport's managing director, said: "The world has changed significantly since Edinburgh Airport last consulted on its masterplan in late 2005.
"In those pre-credit crunch days, huge growth was forecast, the Edinburgh Airport rail link was forging ahead and plans were being drawn up for an additional runway. Clearly, this update of the masterplan must reflect the new world we inhabit and forecast accordingly."
BAA said it no longer needed as much land on the site owned by the Royal Highland Agricultural Society for Scotland, as it previously decided to expand east, rather than west towards the site of the Highland Show.
An RHASS spokeswoman said it was "supportive" of BAA's plans, but decined to comment further until it had time to study the latest masterplan.