Heathrow expansion backed by Airports Commission

July 1 2015  

Heathrow expansion backed by Airports Commission
Government has been urged to act swiftly and commit to the Airports Commission’s conclusion this morning that Heathrow should expand, with a new third runway.
 
CBI director general John Cridland said: “Now that Sir Howard’s Commission has made its recommendation the Government must commit to the decision now and get diggers in the ground at Heathrow swiftly by 2020.”
 
CIHT chief executive Sue Percy said: “While we welcome the publication of the report after two and a half years of detailed technical work, we urge the Government to come to a quick decision and provide the certainty needed to take forward its recommendations.
 
“The timescales involved in providing a solution leave us concerned that any delay on taking a decision would provide the wrong impression, create uncertainty and lead to additional benefits not being achieved,” she added.
 
The London Assembly’s Val Shawcross said: “It is now up to Government to issue a prompt response to his recommendations. What nobody wants to see is yet more years of paralysis and indecision.”
 
The Commission’s recommended option is for a new North West runway at Heathrow which, it says, offers the greatest strategic and economic benefits for the country.
 
But the report makes clear that Government should make a firm commitment to Parliament not to expand Heathrow any further beyond a third runway. It also says that delivering the third runway should be accompanied by a ban on scheduled night flights, tighter limits on noise and a legal commitment on air quality.  
 
The report also points out that Heathrow is the country’s largest air freight hub and has an important role in supporting trade with other countries, including with emerging markets.
 
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin is to make a statement to Parliament today setting out the process for a decision to be made.
Sir Howard Davies said: “Heathrow is best placed to provide the type of capacity which is most urgently required: long haul destinations to new markets. It provides the greatest benefits for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy.
 
“Government will need to review our analysis carefully. The Commission urges it not to prolong this process, however, and to move as quickly as it can to a decision. Further delay will be increasingly costly and will be seen, nationally and internationally, as a sign that the UK is unwilling or unable to take the steps needed to maintain its position as a well connected, open trading economy in the twenty first century.”
 
Two other shortlisted proposals – extending Heathrow’s Northern runway and a second runway at Gatwick – had their merits, Sir Howard concluded. An extended Northern runway is said to deliver “similar economic benefits”, is less costly and requires the loss of fewer homes. But it provides a smaller increase in capacity and is said to be less attractive from a noise and air quality perspective.
 
A second runway at Gatwick was said to be “feasible”, but the additional capacity would be more focused on short haul European routes and the economic benefits would be “considerably smaller”.
 
But Gatwick Airport chief executive Stewart Wingate refused to be beaten. “Gatwick is still very much in the race. The Commission’s report makes clear that expansion at Gatwick is deliverable. It is for the Commission to make a recommendation but it is of course for the Government to decide. We are confident that when the Government makes that decision they will choose Gatwick as the only deliverable option.”
 
London Mayor Boris Johnson, who had previously championed a new airport in the Thames Estuary, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that he did not think expansion at Heathrow will happen. “The impact on London and the environmental cost will be so great that I don’t think it will be deliverable. The long term solution lies in the Thames Estuary. My view is that expanding Heathrow and Gatwick are bad, but expanding Heathrow is considerably worse.”
 
Further reaction and analysis to the Airports Commission’s report will appear in Transportation Professional’s July/August issue.
 
Photo: © Ad Meskens / Wikimedia Commons

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