Airport Commission narrows UK capacity options

17th Dec 2013
Airport Commission narrows UK capacity options

London Heathrow Airport and London Gatwick Airport could be given the go ahead for a new runway following the release of the interim report from the Airports Commission in the UK.

These two options, along with a plan to examine the feasibility of a new airport in the Isle of Grain in north Kent, will compete for the commission’s recommendation when the final report is released in 2015.

Lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow was also mooted as a possibility.

The commission, led by businessman Sir Howard Davies, has not shortlisted proposals for expanding Stansted or Birmingham Airports.

However, it did concede there was likely to be a case for considering them as “potential options” for any second new runway by 2050.

Analysis from the commission argues one net additional runway will be needed in to the south-east of England by 2030. 

The commission, which was launched in 2012, added the capacity challenge is not yet critical, but it will become so if no action is taken soon.

“Decisions on airport location and capacity are among the most important strategic choices a country or city can make, influencing the economic, environmental and social development of cities and regions more than almost any other single planning decision. They are also among the most contentious” - Sir Howard Davies, chair, Airports Commission.

The commission has not short-listed the Isle of Grain option.

However, it will be examined in the first half of 2014 with the commission expected to “reach a view later next year on whether that option offers a credible proposal for consideration alongside the other shortlisted options.”

Mayor of London Boris Johnson confirmed he will continue to support the idea of an estuary airport.

With the decision already delayed for so long, the narrowing the options was seen as a success of sorts by the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK).

BAR UK chief executive Dale Keller said: “Despite the inevitable challenges and disagreement that will follow, the vast majority of airlines believe that expanding Heathrow is now the only sensible way forward for the UK.

“Sir Howard and his team have correctly identified that other proposals would cost billions in public funding and could create mass relocations and associated social upheaval and economic pain, or not deliver on the core objectives.

“Unlike rail, it’s the world’s airlines and their customers who will ultimately pay for the new airport infrastructure through airport charges.”

Virgin Atlantic also offered its support to the Heathrow option.

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Craig Kreeger explained: “UK economic competitiveness relies on increasing direct connectivity to growth markets and that requires a bigger hub, which is currently Heathrow.

“The UK’s ability to compete with its European rivals for global trade will continue to be damaged without additional hub capacity.”

The full report can be seen here.


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