13-May-2010 9:29 AM

New UK Government cancels plans for third runway at Heathrow, changes passenger duty

UK’s new Coalition Government announced (12-May-2010) it has agreed to cancel plans for a third runway at London Heathrow Airport. The government also agreed to refuse the construction of additional runways at London Gatwick and London Stansted airports and replace the air passenger duty with a per flight duty. Instead, the government plans to establish a high-speed rail network. [more]

  • Airport responses:
    • BAA stated it would work with the Government to provide strong trading connections (BBC News, 12-May-2010);
    • Birmingham Airport welcomed (12-May-2010) the new Government’s thinking and fresh approach. The airport stated it can form part of the solution to the "Heathrow problem". There is spare capacity at Birmingham, enough to take another 9 million passengers immediately. It anticipates another 21 million passengers in the future as it improves its capability with a modest runway extension, for which planning consent has already been given. The airport added it will be easily accessed with the introduction of a high-speed rail link; [more]
  • Airline responses:
    • British Airways warned there is no guarantee funds raised from the new per flight duty will be used for environmental or infrastructure benefits (Travel Trade Gazette, 12-May-2010). The carrier also criticised the cancellation of a third runway at Heathrow, stating the runway would have provided “very substantial” economic benefits;
    • easyJet welcomed the tax reform and stated it was looking forward to working with the Government to “reform the air tax to make it a greener and fairer tax”;
  • Council/protester responses:
    • Friends of the Earth welcomed plans to cancel Heathrow's expansion, but called on the Government to expand this to regional airports; [more]
    • Wandsworth Council also welcomed (12-May-2010) plans to cancel the third runway. [more]

Birmingham Airport: “We welcome the Government’s new thinking, which seems to take a more pragmatic and equitable view. In these difficult times it makes sense to use and sensibly improve the assets that you have got, rather than building whole new runways. Aviation has its part to play in an integrated transport system, and rail must play a part in distributing the demand for International Gateways, to Airports that have capacity. Birmingham is a prime example as it is just over an hour from London. Birmingham Airport is a vital yet underused piece of National strategic infrastructure. It is already the Midlands' premier international gateway. In addition to this important role, the prospect of HS2 from Central London to BIA will make journey times comparable with Gatwick and Heathrow, and shorter than Stansted and Luton. We have plenty of capacity and, linked to high-speed rail, we are uniquely positioned to attract passengers from the overheated South East. I hope that the Government’s new thinking will encourage others to take a fresh look at their travel habits – and see that there are some easier alternatives to the ‘received wisdom’. We will not just be another Airport for London as we have our own traffic but by providing a solution to the 'Heathrow Problem' we will create jobs, help to rebuild the local economy, and encourage a new way of looking at problems,” Paul Kehoe, CEO. Source: Birmingham Airport, 12-May-2010.

British Airways: “Increased taxation on the UK aviation industry will create a financial incentive for customers to fly via continental hubs rather than direct from or transiting through UK airports which could actually lead to higher emissions as well as financially disadvantage the UK travel industry … The incoming Government is well aware of our view but has taken a different position. We are content for matters to rest there, and look forward to working with the new Government to play our full part in the UK's economic recovery,” Company Statement. Source: Travel Trade Gazette, 12-May-2010.

Friends of the Earth: "We're delighted that the new government has scrapped plans to expand UK airports - this is an encouraging sign that the coalition takes cutting aviation emissions seriously. They must now rule out expansion at regional airports too. We need a new aviation strategy which makes carbon reduction a priority and goes at least as far as Labour's target to limit aviation emissions to 2005 levels by 2050. Proposals to reform Air Passenger Duty are good news and will encourage airlines to use their planes more efficiently. But much of our emissions comes from flying goods around - so the new tax must cover freight flights too," Andy Atkins, Executive Director

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