UK business community slams Heathrow runway dithering

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The UK freight, logistics and business community have slammed the UK government’s decision to delay a decision until next summer on whether a third runway will be built at Heathrow Airport.

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) says forwarders are “dismayed” over no decisive decision on UK aviation.

BIFA director general, Robert Keen, says: “The 1,500 companies within BIFA are dismayed that the uncertainty and indecision over expanding aviation capacity is set to continue into next summer.

“BIFA has little doubt that this decision is about political expediency, not environmental matters, which must have been addressed in the work done by the Airports Commission during the three years it took to investigate the issues.

“The UK’s freight forwarding community, which is the engine of Britain’s international trade, needs the Government to stop playing political football with the issue of aviation capacity and make a decision. Every week that passes has a direct cost to the UK economy, its international connectivity and reputation.”

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) warns the government that further delay in a decision damaged the UK’s international reputation and discourage investment from overseas.

The FTA’s director of global and European policy, Chris Welsh says: “Yet another delay in a decision on future investment in airport capacity is damaging the UK’s international competitiveness. Approximately 40 per cent of Britain’s imports and exports are dependent on airfreight.

“The UK’s ability to access existing and new markets is in danger of being seriously impaired by a failure to invest in Britain’s core infrastructure capacity.

“Worse still, as the Government dithers, is the damage done to our international reputation and the signal it sends overseas investors who are likely to question the UK’s capability to invest in vital infrastructure required to maintain and enhance the UK’s connectivity.

“Organisations such as OECD and the World Bank have highlighted that Government interventions on infrastructure investment are essential in attaining good connectivity and efficient logistics and are vital components in a nation’s ability to compete in the global economy.”

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) says delaying the decision on an issue of “critical importance” to the future prosperity of the UK is “deeply disappointing”.

CBI director general,Carolyn Fairbairn says: “We urgently need to increase our runway capacity to spur trade growth, investment and job creation. Just eight new routes to emerging markets could boost our exports by up to £1 billion a year.

“But by 2025 – the earliest a new runway would be built – London’s airports could already be operating at full capacity and the longer we wait the further we fall behind the likes of Amsterdam and Paris. If we don’t have a new runway up and running by 2030 the cost to the UK will be as much as £5.3 billion a year in lost trade to the BRICs alone.

“It is of course essential that environmental conditions are met. But the Airports Commission spent three years analysing impartial evidence, at a cost of £20 million, and the National Infrastructure Commission was set up just two months ago to take an evidence-based approach to our needs.

“We cannot fall into the habit of simply commissioning new evidence, instead of the Government taking the tough decisions needed at the end of the process.”

The Let Britain Fly campaign, which supports UK runway expansion and the Airport Commission’s backing of a third runway at Heathrow, says the business community will be “rightly angered” by the latest delay.

Director of Let Britain Fly, Gavin Hayes says “Instead of showing strong leadership the Prime Minister has yet again decided to put short-term political interests before the long-term national interest and kicked the can down the road for another six months. This latest fudge is all about political expediency not about doing what is right for our economy.

“Having already spent three years and millions of pounds of tax-payer money looking at the issue in a Commission, including extensive analysis on the economic and environmental impact, this further delay is unacceptable.

“Such indecision risks undermining our economic competiveness and our global competitors will be rubbing their hands in glee. And the message this sends out to investors is quite frankly a disaster.

The government claim they have a ‘long-term economic plan’ but seem incapable of making the big strategic decisions that will deliver future jobs and growth.”