UK runway decision slips into the distance

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The UK government has been urged not to delay making a decision on increasing runway capacity, following concerns it will not formally respond to its own Airports Commission for some time.

The Airports Commission, which the UK government established in 2012 to examine runway capacity options in South East England, is due to report in the next couple of months. The Freight Transport Association, campaign group Let Britain Fly, and asset management company, SEGRO, have all expressed concern that the government will not respond promptly to the commission’s recommendations.

Let Britain Fly director, Gavin Hayes, tells Air Cargo Week: “The political procrastination needs to stop. The urgency of the situation requires the government to grasp the moment and respond to the Airports Commission’s final report in a timely manner and get on and make a swift decision.”

Hayes says Heathrow Airport is running at capacity, Gatwick Airport will be full by 2020 and London’s other airports will join them by 2030 if nothing is done. He adds: “It is unbelievable that it has already taken the best part of three years for a government commission to conclude that London needs one new runway by 2030. Kicking the can down the road for another year is no longer an option.”

The UK government department for transport says: “We are determined to make progress on this vital issue, but we need to carefully consider the Airports Commission’s full body of work before setting out next steps.”

SEGRO chief executive officer, David Sleath, says he supports expanding Heathrow but wants the government to get on and make a decision.  FTA chief executive, David Wells, has written to the UK prime minister, David Cameron, highlighting the importance of airfreight and saying  that if Heathrow declined it would make freight and logistics more expensive. Wells says the FTA supports expanding Heathrow, as it does not think Gatwick has suitable cargo infrastructure.

The commission, headed by Sir Howard Davies, has shortlisted three proposals to expand London’s runway capacity. The three options are, build a third runway at Heathrow, extend the Northern runway at Heathrow or construct a second runway at Gatwick.