The Airports Commission in the UK has released its final report naming a third runway at London Heathrow Airport as the best option for expanding the UK’s aviation capacity.
The Commission, led by economist Sir Howard Davies, was established by the British Government in 2012, and was tasked with finding the best solution to expanding the UK’s airport capacity in the next five years. The final shortlist came down to three options: a third northwest runway for Heathrow, an extension to the northern runway at Heathrow, and the construction of a second runway at London Gatwick Airport.
The report found that the addition of a northwest runway at Heathrow provided the greatest strategic and economic benefits when compared to the other two options, although acknowledged that the expansion of London Gatwick Airport should remain a serious option for future growth. The government will now decide whether or not to act in accordance with the commission’s findings.
Davies said, “At the end of this extensive work program our conclusions are clear and unanimous – the best answer is to expand Heathrow’s capacity through a new northwest runway.
“Heathrow is best placed to provide the type of capacity which is most urgently required – long haul destinations to new markets. It provides the greatest benefits for business passengers, freight operators and the broader economy.”
According to the report, a new northwest runway will: generate up to £147bn (US$230bn) in GDP impacts over 60 years; create over 70,000 new jobs by 2050; and add regular daily services from the airport to around 40 new destinations, including 10-12 new long-haul routes. The report also makes a number of proposals for managing the potential noise and environmental pollution generated from the new runway.
“To make expansion possible the Commission recommends a comprehensive package of accompanying measures including a ban on night flights and a new noise levy to fund a far stronger and more generous set of compensation and mitigation schemes. And, as there is no environmental or operational case for a fourth runway, the government should take action in parliament to rule it out firmly and finally,” added Davies.
The news has been warmly welcomed by several business groups including the Institute of Directors (IoD), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), and the EEF, the industry body for engineering and manufacturing professionals. However these groups echo the warning made by the Commission to the British Government that action must be taken promptly.
John Cridland, director-general, CBI, said, “Now that Sir Howard’s Commission has made its recommendation, the government must commit to the decision now, and get diggers in the ground at Heathrow swiftly by 2020.
“Growing airport capacity in the south east is absolutely critical to the whole of the UK’s economic future – it simply isn’t an optional “nice to do”. Each day the government delays taking the decision, the UK loses out as our competitors reap the rewards and strengthen their trade links.”
Simon Walker, director general of the IoD, added, “Sir Howard has left the government with no excuse to put off this vital decision again, and if ministers do not proceed with all possible speed it will send a clear signal that the UK is not interested in being a modern, outward-looking, trading nation.
“The government should move quickly to produce a National Policy Statement or a Hybrid Bill to enable construction to start at Heathrow. Parliament will have to approve any plans, so we call on all parties to recognize the vital national need for airport expansion and lend their support.”
Despite the report’s recommendation, Stewart Wingate, CEO for London Gatwick Airport, still remains optimistic regarding the airport’s chances of receiving the government’s approval.
Wingate said, “Gatwick is still very much in the race. The Commission’s report makes clear that expansion at Gatwick is deliverable.
“It is for the Commission to make a recommendation but it is, of course, for the government to decide. So we now enter the most important stage of the process.
“We are confident that when the government makes that decision they will choose Gatwick as the only deliverable option. For instance, this report highlights the very significant environmental challenges at Heathrow such as air quality and noise impact.”