Airports still locked in battle

Heathrow gets nod for runway but Gatwick remains ‘confident’

HeathrowHeathrow and Gatwick remained locked in a battle for expansion today despite a recommendation that the west London facility gets the extra runway.

A long-awaited report from Sir Howard Davies’ commission says greater economic benefits and jobs will come from building the additional airstrip at Heathrow.

It is also regarded as a more viable international hub and a better gateway to the regions and nations of Britain.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the commission had backed “a positive and ambitious vision for Britain”.

However, Sir Howard has left the way clear for expansion at Gatwick which wants a second runway. Prime Minister David Cameron said the government’s response will not be hurried. It is expected to deliver a final verdict in the autumn.

Gatwick Airport chief executive Stewart Wingate said this morning:  “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.

“Gatwick will give the country the economic benefits it needs and at the same time impact far less people. It is quicker simpler and quieter. Above all – after decades of delay – it can actually happen.”

Gatwick will issue a full response to the Airports Commission recommendation today.

The cost of a third runway at Heathrow has been put at £18.6 billion, while Gatwick’s proposal would come in at half the cost and would not require as much disruption.

Even if Heathrow secures government backing, aviation and planning experts do not expect a new runway to be operational for 10 years or more. It will require substantial building works and the demolition of homes.

There are also likely to be continued political and environmental objections, despite the commission saying Heathrow can tackle these issues. Gatwick’s owners believe it offers a better solution to noise and other environmental impacts.

The British Chambers of Commerce has today announced its backing for Heathrow expansion. More than 30 local Chambers of Commerce from every region and nation across the UK.

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, 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.

“Creating new routes to emerging markets will open doors to trade, boosting growth, creating jobs and driving investment right across the country. Our research shows that eight new daily routes alone could boost exports by up to £1 billion a year.

“The UK’s economic future cannot be kept waiting on the tarmac any longer. By taking the decision now, the Government can send the message, loud and clear, that Britain is open for business.”

Heathrow said expansion will connect all of Britain to growth markets around the world and enable the UK to overtake its European competitors in the race for jobs and growth. In a statement today it said it will:

 ·     Deliver up to £147billion economic benefit, almost double the benefit of Gatwick.

·     Create 40 new long-haul connections to emerging growth markets around the world. Today, Heathrow has 82 long-haul connections, one of only six airports in the world that have regular flights to over 50 long haul destinations.

·     Double freight capacity at Heathrow. Heathrow is currently Britain’s biggest port by value, supporting more exports than Felixstowe and Southampton combined.

·     Be linked to 16 regional airports, up from 7 today, and within 3 hours of 70% of the country through improved road and rail links.

·     Increase competition and choice for passengers. Over 30 airlines are already waiting to enter Heathrow or add new services once new capacity is provided.

·     Reduce aircraft noise compared to today and be delivered within the Government’s carbon and air quality targets. 

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive, said: “This debate has never been about a runway, it’s been about the future we want for Britain. Expanding Heathrow will keep Britain as one of the world’s great trading nations, right at the heart of the global economy.

“Our new plans have been designed around the needs of local communities and will meet carbon, air quality and noise targets, and provides the greatest benefit to the UK’s connectivity and its long term economic growth.

“We will create the world’s best connected, most efficient and most environmentally responsible hub airport at the heart of an integrated transport system.”

“The Commission has backed a positive and ambitious vision for Britain.  We will now work with Government to deliver it.”

London mayor Boris Johnson, who is now also MP for the constituency around Heathrow, is among those who have campaigned against expanding the airport and said today that he still believes it is “undeliverable”.

Five Cabinet ministers represent constituencies which would be affected by expansion at Heathrow and are opposing the plan. They are Theresa May, the Home Secretary; Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary; Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary; Greg Hands, the Chief Treasury Secretary and Theresa Villiers, the Northern Ireland Secretary.

However, eight Tory MPs representing seats near Gatwick oppose its plans for a second runway.

Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, will make a Commons statement on the  commission’s findings.


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