Government confirms delay on runway plan

BA threat to abandon ‘expensive’ Heathrow

Willie Walsh video grabBritish Airways has threatened to expand in Dublin or Madrid rather than London after the government confirmed it would delay a decision on a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick until next summer.

The government said it wants more evidence on environmental issues before making a decision. Critics, however, say the six month delay – pushing the verdict back to June – is a cynical ploy to avoid an embarrassing row over Heathrow during the London mayor election in May.

Current mayor Boris Johnson is opposed to Heathrow expansion, as is the Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith. His Labour rival Sadiq Khan, who also opposes a third runway at Heathrow, said: “We won’t forgive David Cameron if this is just a postponement to spare his mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith’s embarrassment during the campaign.”

David Cameron gave a “guarantee” in July that a final decision would be made by the end of the year.

That followed the publication of the independent report of the Davies Commission, which recommended a third runway at Heathrow rather than the expansion of Gatwick Airport.

Willie Walsh (pictured), chief executive of BA owner International Airlines Group, said it was not prepared to pay the higher passenger charges at Heathrow that would follow a decision to build a third runway.

Carolyn FairbairnCarolyn Fairbairn (right), CBI director-general said: ‘Delaying this decision on an issue of critical importance to the future prosperity of the UK is deeply disappointing.

“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.”

In a statement this morning, Heathrow said that it has full confidence in its new expansion plan and pledged to work with Government to deliver Britain the hub capacity it needs “within tough environmental limits.”

It said the Government’s announcement to progress Heathrow’s expansion and undertake further environmental research follows the unanimous and unambiguous recommendation of the Airports Commission this summer after a two and a half year, £20m study – the deepest ever into UK aviation capacity.  The Commission confirmed that expanding Heathrow would have the biggest economic benefits for the UK and can be done while reducing noise for local communities and within EU air quality limits. 

“Expanding Heathrow will give Britain up to 40 more long haul destinations, such as Wuhan, Osaka and Panama City, making it the best connected country in the world”, said the company. “It will more than double the number of domestic routes served, ensuring every region and nation of the UK can get to global markets and, increase cargo capacity, supporting Britain’s exporters.  This will result in up to £211bn of economic growth, 180,000 jobs and 10,000 apprenticeships spread across the whole of Britain.

“Expansion of Heathrow is backed by business, trade unions, politicians and airlines as the best solution to Britain’s aviation capacity crunch.  Supporters include the CBI, BCC, chambers of commerce across the country, Unite, the GMB, 37 British airports and airlines such as easyJet, which plans to operate from an expanded Heathrow.  Independent polling has shown that expansion has strong support in local constituencies. “

Heathrow said it is confident that its plans meet tough environmental conditions and will move into the delivery phase.  Logistics hubs are planned across the UK.

It added that the news will put in motion billions of pounds of contracts for British companies, including SMEs, to deliver the largest privately financed infrastructure project in the country. 

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport said: “The Airports Commission, announced by the Prime Minister three years ago, made a unanimous and unambiguous recommendation in June for Heathrow expansion. 

“Our new plan will connect the whole nation to global growth while providing opportunities for the local community and making Heathrow the most environmentally responsible hub airport in the world.  I am confident we can meet tough environmental standards.”

 “We have support locally and nationally from politicians, business, trade unions and the aviation industry for Heathrow expansion.  Let’s get on and build a better future for Britain.”


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