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 120.

    Common sense would dictate that any new airport should be built in the Midlands, not London, we are too overloaded here in the south east.
    Not everyone who flies to the UK wants to visit London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 119.

    Nearly 35% of LHR passengers were "transfer" passengers in 2011, I am not an expert but it would seem to me that it would make no difference to the passenger which airport they landed at provided they could catch an onward flight. A possible solution might lie in the hand of the airlines if they "thought outside the box" instead of their current obsession with the South East, LHR in particular.

  • rate this

    Comment number 118.

    This enquiry has been set up to kick the decision into the long grass. DC is not permitted to make a decision by NC.

    The best way to decide is to ignore what has gone before, and answer the question "where is the best place to have an airport?" Then to build it in the Thames Estuary.

  • rate this

    Comment number 117.

    BHX & BRS (+ Filton) linked directly to London by Rail & Motorways, both cities could do with investment, send London area freight to these airports. Leave LTN & LGW & SEN for holiday flights in summer, LHR, LCY & STN for 'business' flights, all nicely spaced out.

    We have the capacity, we just need to jiggle it about, no need for 'new' airports or runways.

    Tories & simple solutions, not likely !

  • rate this

    Comment number 116.

    #73: "raise taxes on flying by UK people"

    I assume that you're not aware that taxes can already make up 75% of the price of some long-haul tickets ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 115.

    When the the gov't in London realise that they are supposed to govern for the whole country and not just London? The whole thrust of UK tourism promotion is London (with a smidge of Stratford thrown in); The only place that could possibly be promoted to hold the olympics was London (Manchester and B'ham were ignored by national govt).

    Can we join Scotland and leave the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 114.

    Think outside the box at other airfield assets ; consider Brize or Lyneham who have the runways in place and plenty of surrounding land to build a `hub`. then build fast track rail to Heathrow / Paddington along the M4 corridor maybe with well placed tunnels and hey-presto problem solved. OR ~ further afield you could consider Lakenheath or Mildenhall as `hub` and fast track to Stanstead / Luton.

  • rate this

    Comment number 113.

    Private property rights aren't being protected here, they're being interfered with.

    The Govt should allow this private owner of land build an extra driveway (runway) on their private property. Hell, the Govt initially buit the runways there to begin with!

    While I'm at it, the Govt should allow me to put a solar pannel on my roof without "their" permission too. It's my roof!

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    Needy London hoovering up all the resources again. The south east needs extra capacity, ok, but the rest of the UK needs jobs and has been overlooked for decades.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    As I understand it, most of our imports arrive by sea to our ports, in containers, that are loaded onto British owned lorries for distribution to various warehouses throughout the UK.

    Imports via foreign lorries using ferries from across mainland Europe do not follow the rules imposed on British companies. That is the criminal link that port authorities struggle to address with staff cuts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    85. Peter_Sym
    Good point - probably the best idea so far. Bring back flying boats then you don't need to build runways just a pier at any convenient point on the coastline or even on a lake/loch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I concur with both your sentiments: I seem to remember only 2 days ago that regional development was being pushed by a certain Lord.
    I also consider we need to improve road links far more than we need HS2 a national water network would improve water security for all areas + provide construction work across the whole country.
    UK labour & materials: wins all round.

  • rate this

    Comment number 108.

    The UK needs a single hub for international connecting flights. I am sure most Londoners would like it somewhere else but its just not realistic - how many international high fliers would want to connect via Manchester or Newcastle? - they would simply go to Frankfurt or Paris.

  • Comment number 107.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    81. FisherOfTruth

    London is a world hub because that's where people want to fly to from outside the UK.

    I work in this business and have done for 15 years. The demand for slots at London airports is huge - especially at Heathrow. This is from overseas airlines whose passengers want to travel to London.

    You need to face reality and stop being so hard done by.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    Listened to Howard Davies on the Today programme waffleing about a report that may never be taken up. This was followed by the biased ranting reporting of Evelyn Davis.The tirade she unleashed against Boris Johnson was outrageous. Is it too much to hope for, to get the BBC to reign in this left wing munchkin. Together with Justine Webb, these two sweethearts are a disgrace to journalism

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    The solution is easy.

    Remove all freight from Heathrow. Send it to Kent International Airport.
    No 'private' or 'executive' flights. Send those to Biggin Hill and Northolt.
    Place a lower seat limit of 150. Anything smaller must find another airport.
    The free slots can now be used for bigger aircraft thus increasing Heathrows capacity.


  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    They get their money from us!
    Why do we need them?
    We can do it our selves.
    We funded, built & operated the rail network in the UK without Them.
    They should let Us keep our money & we'll sort this mess out :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Who was it that touted London could be a country in its own right.Pity it wasnt?
    Just think how much money could be made feeding it!
    It would starve,just as it does to the rest of UK now...
    Increase Airports sizes out of London please,you are killing GB.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    "Wales, Scotland , NOI should have a say because our taxes are being used.....NO? thought not"

    What about the Clyde Waterfront? Over £5Billion spent on it purely for the benefit of 150k Glaswegians. Were the rest of the U.K consulted about this (blatant) vote buying exercise?


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