10-Sep-2012 12:55 PM

Commission to consider southeast England airport capacity, decision unlikely before 2015

UK Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin stated (07-Sep-2012) a decision on whether Britain will expand airport capacity around London "will be taken by the next Government" meaning a decision is unlikely prior to 2015. A commission chaired by former Financial Services Authority head Howard Davies has been tasked with identifying and recommending to Government options for maintaining this country’s status as an international hub for aviation. The Commission will:

  • examine the scale and timing of any requirement for additional capacity to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub; and
  • identify and evaluate how any need for additional capacity should be met in the short, medium and long term.

In doing so, the Commission will provide an interim report to the Government no later than the end of 2013 setting out:

  • its assessment of the evidence on the nature, scale and timing of the steps needed to maintain the UK’s global hub status; and;
  • its recommendation(s) for immediate actions to improve the use of existing runway capacity in the next five years – consistent with credible long term options.

The Commission will then publish by the summer of 2015 a final report, for consideration by the Government and Opposition Parties, containing:

  • its assessment of the options for meeting the UK’s international connectivity needs, including their economic, social and environmental impact;
  • its recommendation(s) for the optimum approach to meeting any need;
  • its recommendation(s) for ensuring that the need is met as expeditiously as practicable within the required timescale; and
  • materials to support the Government in preparing a National Policy Statement to accelerate the resolution of any future planning application(s).

Several options are being considered to increase the southeast of England's strained airport capacity: a third runway at London Heathrow International Airport; a second at London Stansted Airport or a new airport in the estuary of the river Thames. London Mayor Boris Johnson, who opposes the expansion of London Heathrow, has called the decision to set up a commission a "fudge". He also criticised Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to remove transport secretary Justine Greening from her post, which he claimed was a prelude to a U-turn on a third runway. [more - original PR]

UK Government: "This is a very difficult debate, but the reality is that since the 1960s Britain has failed to keep pace with our international competitors in addressing long term aviation capacity and connectivity needs. Germany, France and the Netherlands have all grown their capacity more extensively than the UK over the years, and so are better equipped, now and in the future, to connect with the fast growing markets of emerging economies. The consequences are clear. Our largest airport and our only hub airport – Heathrow – is already operating at capacity. Gatwick, the world’s busiest single runway airport, will be full early in the next decade, while spare capacity at Stansted airport is forecast to run out in the early 2030s. The Government believes that maintaining the UK’s status as a leading global aviation hub is fundamental to our long term international competitiveness. But the Government is also mindful of the need to take full account of the social, environmental and other impacts of any expansion in airport capacity," Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport. Source: Company statement, 07-Sep-2012.

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