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 160.

    "Those selfishly in favour of another runway,...., should lobby hard for one and....., move home so that they can enjoy the experience of living beneath a flight-path."

    Apply the same argument to yourself.

    If living under a flight path is such a pain, and it's that easy to move home, then move.

    Do you think of your neighbour when you fly off on holiday?

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    3 Minutes ago
    Stop! Please stop raping our country with your airports, your roads, your houses, your railways.

    Unfortunately alot of people want to live in dry warm places and go to other places to see what they have

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    131 Brora- and if they expanded Edinburgh to a major hub, I'll bet you'd be among the first to moan about the noise etc.

  • rate this

    Comment number 157.

    I'm from Ireland and lived in Reading for a number of years. London airports were always the obvious choice for me.

    A genuine question for people saying they want places further north to be given the chance. What exactly is there to see or do further north?

    Tourists from all over the world flock to London on a regular basis but I don't hear about many hoping to visit the midlands for example?

  • rate this

    Comment number 156.


    It might be worth having a read of this which outlines Heathrow's slot situation. They are so valuable that airlines are now including them as tangible asssets on their balance sheets. Why are they so valuable? Could it be good old supply and demand? Convinced yet that more capacity is needed?

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    Knock Slough Down (circa £5 of collateral damage), construct New Slough around White Waltham Airfield (Maidenhead), Re-site 4 runway Heathrow on Old Slough site.

    Removes monstrosity that is Slough
    Gives planners new opp to create a green Slough on new site
    Gives UK and London 4 runway super airport.
    Reduces overflight effects on West London

  • rate this

    Comment number 154.

    Stop! Please stop raping our country with your airports, your roads, your houses, your railways.

  • rate this

    Comment number 153.

    The whole of the UK infrastructure needs radical updating.

    If a more reliable and speedy internet were available more international conferences count be done on a Secure Link Virtual Reality basis that would cut much of the unnecessary travel.

    Like some stores that are about to shut, business must change their business mode with the times or go the way of the dinosaur.

  • rate this

    Comment number 152.

    The government has declared it intends, by 2015 to commit £42 billion to build a high speed railway which won't go via Heathrow. They may well decide post 2015 that after all they want to expand Heathrow. If they then want to link the high speed railway to Heathrow it will cost a further £8 billion and it can only take a maximum of 2 trains per hour. We need a national transport strategy now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 151.

    Just for once could we have aviation experts, ie, air traffic controllers, pilots, transport/passenger organisers, offer their views on where this airport should be. That way the MPs, Mayors, and other illinformed can decide using a sound basis for this multi-billion pound project.

  • rate this

    Comment number 150.

    70.Adrian M Lee
    The demand for slots at Heathrow is huge and rising"

    Just how much is the demand for Heathrow slots rising ? Perhaps you could save me some time and let me have your figures
    Indeed, lets see some figures.
    Technological advances (conferencing etc.), rocketing fuel costs and high pollution levels may render the expansion unecessary in the longer term.

  • rate this

    Comment number 149.

    As the Hrow supporters dont seem to be coming up with any hard evidence thst the worlds airlines are clamouring for more landing slots in London I will have to speculate a little.
    London`s economic prospects are much more fragile than is being admitted and it may be that it is more a case of monopolising airport capacity to force reluctant passengers to fly in and out the UK via London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 148.

    Regardless of any positive outcome for airport expansion anywhere in the UK, the bureaucratic planning process will ensure that by the time opening day arrives most would have forgotten how long it took. e.g Terminal 5.

    Boris appears to be the only person to have put his spherical objects on the block to ensure UK Plc isn't left behind Europe, let alone China in terms of air transport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 147.

    Those selfishly in favour of another runway, wherever it will be, should lobby hard for one and, as a condition of doing so, move home so that they can enjoy the experience of living beneath a flight-path. If they really don't think they can do without air travel, then they and their families should be the ones to endure deafening noise all day, every day.

  • Comment number 146.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 145.

    Airport utilisation varies dramatically across the UK. Heathrow runs at 97% capacity and airlines spend huge amounts (up to around £20million) to buy just one pair of slots there. Many could fly to any other airport in the UK and pay much, much less but many don't. Why? Because Heathrow is where they make the most money, it's simple economics- airlines fly to London because demand is there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 144.

    People should have a look on this website and see just how crowded the skies above us already are, before they call for more capacity and new airports.

  • rate this

    Comment number 143.

    typical of this shower-nothing to do with need or neccessity-no its politics-the most incompetent goverment ever to sit in westminster-devoid of scruples or principles-total loss of control-the sad thing is we have to put up with them right up to 2015-it is no longer a democratic goverment its a regime we have to exist under-one wonders what else they will try to bribe us with

  • rate this

    Comment number 142.

    I hope this enquiry will be hooked into the HS2 plan.
    If HS2 & Existing west Coast links are put in at Heathrow then a great chunk of the 750K p.a Manchester/Heathrow passengers would be enticed onto the trains releasing slots for use on BRIC destinations at Heathrow. An even greater case for this can be made for releasing slots from Heathrow/Glasgow at 820K p.a passengers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    70.Adrian M Lee
    "London is a world hub. This is a fact whether northerners like it or not. The demand for slots at Heathrow is huge and rising."

    What exactly is the reason why there should not be a second world hub in GB, one obvious choice being Manchester? It would avoid the inconvenience for the many whose final destination is not London and reduce the pollution from internal flights.


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