Heathrow Airport has released a report claiming the government’s failure to allow expansion at the airport costs the UK economy some £14 billion a year.
If the present situation is allowed to continue – without a third runway being built at the UK’s only hub airport – the figure could rise to £26 billion by 2030, the airport said following the release of new research earlier.
The Conservative-led coalition government has, however, ruled out a decision on a third runway until after the next election, due in 2015.
However, the party is presently opposed to the proposal.
A commission headed by Howard Davies has been appointed to advise on future UK airport capacity needs.
In the interim Heathrow has released a report – ‘One Hub or None’ – which argues only one airport can operate as a hub in the UK.
The airport contents the government can either do nothing and “let the UK fall behind competitors”, add additional capacity at Heathrow, or close Heathrow and replace it with a new larger hub airport.
The latter is the preferred choice of London mayor Boris Johnson, who has called for a new airport to be built in the Thames Estuary.
Heathrow chief executive Colin Matthews said: “If anyone was still in doubt about the importance of aviation to the UK economy, this report should lay those doubts to rest.
“The new work we are publishing today shows that only a single hub airport can meet the UK’s connectivity needs and the choice is therefore between adding capacity at Heathrow or closing Heathrow and replacing it with a new UK hub airport.”
However, the report has been branded “completely biased” by Greenpeace, with other commentators also questioning its importance.
In a similarly one sided argue, Gatwick claimed it was the naturally place for expansion in the south-east of England.
“Growing Gatwick is the best way to address the current and future capacity problems in the south-east,” read a statement from officials at the airport.
“A new runway at Gatwick could be more affordable and practical than other options and give passengers a greater choice of routes to key destinations.
“Critically, we would have a significantly lower environmental impact compared to an expanded Heathrow.
“The Airports Commission needs to look to the future and not to Heathrow’s monopoly past.
“It will need to decide whether a competitive airports’ network in London, delivering more passenger choice, connections, convenience and lower prices, is more preferable to propping up an outdated and unnecessary expanded Heathrow.”
The debate seems set to rumble on for years.