UK Airports Commission’s Interim Report

Three shortlisted options have been taken forward for further examination by the Airports Commission’s Interim Report, chaired by Sir Howard Davies into a critical part of the UK’s Aviation strategy, published today. Gatwick Airport may receive an additional runway to the south of the existing and two additional runway options will be examined for Heathrow, already regarded as ‘at capacity’.

The commission took the view that although an estuary island should not be ruled out long term, ‘the scale of road and rail investment and construction activity needed is daunting, at a time when HS2 is also under way’. It will however be subject to further appraisal with a ‘robust final recommendation to government in summer 2015’. The fact that it remains on the table will do little to sweeten the pill for London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, who remains a strong advocate for an airport in the Thames Estuary.

The potential expansion of Stansted and Birmingham will also not be taken forward at this stage, although they could be regarded as options in 2050.

The Commission acknowledges that the publication of this Interim Report may cause unwelcome uncertainty for communities close to the short-listed sites, particularly in the case of Heathrow, which handled 70 million passengers in 2012 and could see an extra 260,000 extra flights according to Heathrow’s owners.

Richard Gammon, Director of Aviation and Transportation, HOK commented: "The only practical solution to the issue of UK aviation capacity is the option that Heathrow has outlined for a third runway and for that reason it is reassuring to see the shortlist that the Davies Commission has announced. Whilst it is only right that the commission consider all options, the proposals focused on Stansted or the Isle of Grain would take decades to materialise and therefore cannot offer an effective response to our immediate lack of aviation capacity.

"We are already seeing competitors in Europe and beyond benefitting from our slow response and it is widely accepted that if the UK is to retain its position as a global destination for business this needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Therefore our response must recognise the enormous effort that Heathrow has made to retain and develop its status as the UK’s only true international hub. Heathrow is vital to the economic prosperity of both London and the UK, and supporting its ability to evolve to meet the needs of the global marketplace must be a core part of maintaining UKPLC’s global competitiveness."

The Commission’s work continues throughout 2014 toward the delivery of its final report in the following year.

Jim Davis

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