A NEW railway station linking Southend Airport with London could be operational by the end of the year.

Discussions have been taking place between Network Rail, National Express and the Department for Transport over building the station.

Yesterday officials, who were joined by Andrew Tinkler, chief executive of the Stobart Group which bought the airport for £21million, said the station could be up and running in time for the winter rail timetable. They also spoke of proposals to extend the runway so more passenger flights could use the airport.

Mr Tinkler, who was touring the airport for the first time, said: “The development of the airport is so key to the area and what it could fetch into the economy.

“We feel it is something waiting to happen and the railway station is one of the key things which needs to happen.

“The railway station wouldn’t be used for rail freight. It will be about getting passengers from the airport to London.

“The station and a longer runway with more passengers will come to fruition and we have the funds in place to deliver that.”

Stobart, best known for its fleet of lorries, bought the lease on the airport in December and has been in discussions about the station project.

Negotiations with a firm to build and run a new a hotel are also said to be in their final stages, while plans are progressing for the new control tower and passenger terminal.

Stobart has also announced plans to build a specialist route centre to guide the firm’s trucks.

Thousands of jobs are expected to be created by the developments.

Mr Tinkler toured the airport yesterday with its managing director Alastair Welch and Rochford and Southend councillors.

He added the airport was still looking at options for Eastwoodbury Lane, which runs across the end of the runway, and might have to be diverted if the runway was extended.

Mr Welch said: “We want all this open in time for the Olympics in 2012.”