Airport inquiry head Sir Howard Davies outlines aims

Aeroplane Many businesses have been calling for an expansion of Heathrow Airport

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The head of a commission investigating airport capacity in the UK has said he aims to give the next government a "flying start" on the issue after the 2015 general election.

Sir Howard Davies, who acknowledged decision-making on the subject had been delayed, vowed to produce a "substantial piece of work".

London Mayor Boris Johnson said the process should be sped up.

The government has resisted pressure to build a third runway at Heathrow.

However, many businesses have been lobbying for expansion at the airport.

Mr Johnson, who opposes expanding Heathrow, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that expansion at the west London airport "simply will not happen".

Start Quote

I think it's going to be toxic and disastrous to go into the election of 2015 with Heathrow runway three still on the agenda”

End Quote Boris Johnson Mayor of London

The mayor, who has advocated a new airport in the Thames Estuary, also said he felt the decision-making process was too slow and represented a "policy of utter inertia".

"I think what is going on now is a good thing, it's a productive process. I just think it could be speeded up, and there is absolutely no need to delay to 2015," he said.

Mr Johnson added: "Can I tell you in the next nine years how many runways they are going to build in China? They are going to build 52. How many are we going to build in the UK? None at all."

He said it would be "toxic and disastrous to go into the election of 2015 with Heathrow runway three still on the agenda".

Speaking to the BBC earlier, Sir Howard addressed criticisms about the recommendations being delayed until 2015.

"Politics dictate that, for reasons we all understand, the coalition has said they are not going to make this decision before the election," he said, explaining that his commission can do a lot of preparatory work.

That work would include considering a national airport policy statement, detailed business cases and environmental and noise assessments.

"We do have to do all of that and I think we can do that under the aegis of the commission, so that when the new government comes into office in 2015, when they make a decision, it will have a flying start," he said.

'Lacking consensus'

He said the full report, expected in 2015, would be a "really expert piece of work looking at how we think about airport capacity, which I hope will be internationally leading-edge".

"In order to build enough political consensus around the eventual solution, we will need to show that we have done in-depth analysis of the other options. At the moment, consensus is what is lacking," he said.

In the meantime, Sir Howard, a former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, said the commission would look at the options for increasing airport capacity within the existing framework and how to narrow down the range of possible approaches.

He said he planned to bring out an interim report by the end of next year in which the commission would have narrowed down the options.

Airport Commission members

  • Sir Howard Davies, former chairman of the Financial Services Authority
  • Sir John Armitt, former Chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority and former Chief Executive of Network Rail
  • Prof Ricky Burdett, former member of the BP Executive Management Team
  • Prof Dame Julia King, member of the Committee on Climate Change
  • Geoff Muirhead CBE, former CEO of the Manchester Airport Group

Along with a third Heathrow runway, the options include connecting Heathrow and Gatwick, a new airport in the Thames Estuary and the expansion of Stansted.

Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has named the five other individuals who will sit on the commission chaired by Sir Howard.

They include Sir John Armitt, the former chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority, and Geoff Muirhead CBE, former chief executive of the Manchester Airport Group.

Ministers say they are committed to maintaining what they call "the UK's position as Europe's most important aviation hub".

While the coalition government has ruled out further expansion at Heathrow during the current parliament, many Conservative MPs want ministers to think again as part of a wider review of the future of UK airports.

According to the BBC's political correspondent Chris Mason, the regular "mantra" from ministers is that 100% of their effort and attention is devoted to doing everything possible to revive the economy.

Liberalising the planning system and removing perceived barriers to growth are seen as key, he added.

Sir Howard was asked by the transport secretary in September to look into the issue of airport capacity .


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  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I see the Londonphiles are out in force marking down anyone who dares to think outside the M25 box.

    That is a big problem in this country, everything but everything is about London.

    This report is SUPPOSED to be about UK capacity, but the article introduces London and Boris in the third one line paragraph. From that point on the "UK" is totally forgotten.

    What are you Londonphiles afraid of?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    32. jurassicflood

    The future is already here!

    Even now little need to ever set foot outside your house... or have excessive contact with other humans...

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.


  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    London is like a Bacteria?
    Slowly killing the rest of England off!
    This bacteria will in its self kill off London!!!
    Why cant the Money eyed not see this???
    They are Blinded by their own stupidity...

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Why does almost everything to do with modernising, improving & expanding things in the UK always have to be situated around London & the south east? They fly everything into London then road haul it everywhere else in the country, why not fly things to where they're wanted to cut down the waste? Oh hang on, that would mean someone having to co-ordinate things properly & no one's too good at that!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    Build the runway now and the second runway at Gatwick. Connect them both with a Maglev train service and truly show the world we are at its centre.
    ..... On the other hand we could keep building windmills to prove to the world we are still in the 15th Century

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    @16.Bastiat (myself)
    I meant to say Heathrow WAS sold off to private enterprise (in 1986).

    Why is No.10 still placing ridiculous restrictions (playing politics) on this private business which is trying to meet the obvious increase in demand. This creates disgruntled customers (travellers) & frustrated owners of Heathrow trying to operate its business.

    Get out of the way Boris & Cameron!

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    How about every town hall in the country being provided for free with a high-end video-conference suite (or suites in big cities) which could be booked by businessmen so that they could have video-conferences with all the people they would have flown out to see. Town halls get income, businessmen save money and pollution is reduced. Or is that too simple?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    The aims of Sir Howard Davies' enquiry are simple and straightforward: to kick the whole issue of airport expansion into the long grass until after the next general election. He virtually admitted as much on the Today programme this morning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    The nay sayers on HYS alone are some concern. So many who seem to think that with a 60 million & rising fast population in an over crowded island we don't need any massive infrastructure investments . Thats fuel & energy, water, roads, rail, airports, housing, you know all the essential things we take for granted. (well not in their back yards anyway)

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    So Boris Johnson is comparing us to China who are going to build 52 new runways in the next nine years.How many times bigger landmass is China compared to us?They have a slight geographical advantage,I think.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    If ever there was a situation where Brussels should step in and sort out a shambles, This is it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    @22.cthulhu, the problemis the NIMBY's look at the HST that is 95% outside of london, the people along the route are opposing it. the same goes for Regional Airports, Birmingham has been pushing for a second runway for 2 decades, but the locals dont want it, its the same for other regional airports as well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    7. The Ace Face
    "The head of a commission investigating airport capacity in the UK has said he aims to give the next government a "flying start" on the issue after the 2015 general election."

    So he knows who is going to win the next election does he??
    Eh ? He knows there will defiantly be a government after the next general election. I think you may be a tad confused here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    "Sir Howard Davies outlines aims" …. To milk the gravy train dry while employing as any of his crony consultant mates as possible to in the end, come up the nothing but a huge cost to the public.
    The A303 Stonehenge Bypass consultation took years, decided nothing and cost over £100m !!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    1) Our ageing power stations need replacing.
    2) Our national grid requires upgrading and expanding.
    3) Our fixed telephone network is 25yrs old.
    4) The WCML is already working at capacity.
    5) New airport space is needed for both passenger and freight.
    6) London is (physically) sinking; and will require a new barrage.
    7) Etc…

    There just isn't enough long grass to kick these issues into!

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I find comparisons to China laughable. China is a huge country with a burgeoning economy, the UK is at capacity, it is small and has sold its economy to the service industry. More airports will just compound the chronic overcrowding. If China want to build 52 runways then let them, I think we ought to get back to concentrating on quality rather than quantity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    I believe that the aim of this report will really be to explain to a Nation in austerity, who already feels badly let down by London, why London and the south east are again getting the lions share of infrastructure investment. Most UK taxpayers live outside of the south east.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Why is everything focused on making this country more busy, denser, more polluting, more populated? It's unsustainable and plain will not work.


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