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UPDATED: New runways for Heathrow and Gatwick on Davies’ shortlist

[ December 17, 2013   //   ]

The Davies Commission on airport capacity in the south-east of England has shortlisted a third runway for Heathrow and a second for Gatwick as possible options, but has not come out decisevly in favour of a scheme for a new island airport in the Thames Estuary. It says that further work will be needed on the ambitious proposal – which has the backing of London Mayor, Boris Johnson – before it can be added to the list. The Commission is due to publish its final report by summer 2015.

A possible second runway at Stansted did not make it onto the list either, although this is not absolutely ruled out.

The Commission, led by businessman Sir Howard Davies, says that while the runway shortage in the south-east is not quite critical, the equivalent of one complete new runway will be needed by 2030. However, any such scheme is likely to face entrenched opposition from residents and environmentalists, while the present Government has already revered the previous labour administration’s plans for a third runway at Heathrow, saying that it will not revisit the issue during the lifetime of the current Government.

But while welcoming the report’s call for new runways at Heathrow and Gatwick, British International Freight Association’s (BIFA) director general, Peter Quantrill, described it as “an exercise in damage limitation”. He said: “Over the past decades, successive UK governments have shown a singular lack of vision in the face of a massive surge in air transport and consequent pressure on existing airport infrastructure in the South East.

“We can only hope that after the general election in May 2015, the welter of evidence as presented will be such that politicians will give the green light and adopt these recommendations in full. We trust that today’s report will finally lead to some action.”

Likewise, the Freight Transport Association welcomed the report’s confirmation that there is a need for additional runway capacity in the south east, adding: “This additional runway capacity is urgently needed to enhance the global air cargo hub status of Heathrow. Maintaining a global hub located in the UK is vital to the economy and our international competitiveness is likely to be impaired unless current airport capacity is expanded to cater for growth in international trade.”

Heathrow is the most significant airport in the UK for freight – in fact it carries more freight each year than all other UK airports put together.  It competes as a mixed use hub with the major continental alternatives but FTA says the lack of availability of slots at Heathrow is reducing the UK’s connectivity and limiting the range of destinations served, particularly to emerging markets.

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