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 260.

    I wont be using London Airports, I be hoping the new service from Manston takes off.

    A quick flight to Amsterdam and then a flight to the anywhere I want!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 259.

    Birmingham Airport is fine.

    Easier to get to, and nicer to be at, than any London airport, for people in much of central England.

    It could easily be expanded, and it has great road and rail links, all of which could be improved.

    Great for the Midlands, and it reduce transport pressure on the M4, M25 and M40.

    Much easier, cheaper and more productive than London expansion.
    So it will not happen

  • rate this

    Comment number 258.


    Not a hope, this country is SE centrist, any idea that the people who make the decisions would approve spending anywhere more than 50 km from London is pie in the sky.

    Has anyone making decisions ever looked at where those arriving in London are actually going - are the majority only coming to London or to the UK?

  • rate this

    Comment number 257.

    Firstly there are huge amounts of decommisioned Military Airports in the UK within an few hours journey of london, if i was a traveler i would not find any problem making my way to london.
    This is just a solution made for the wealthy and corrupt so they can be in London within Minutes while the poor and middle class pay for it!
    The so called Elite really do think we are peasants on our Knees!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 256.

    There is a perfectly placed and fully equipped airfield within a short distance of Heathrow by air, road and rail that can take all the non-passenger traffic, thereby releasing all those extra slots at Heathrow and other SE airports for the extra passenger traffic.

    What is this perfect solution? Filton Airfield in North Bristol! It's a far cheaper, more practical and quicker solution. Just do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 255.

    254.Calum McKay
    Probably because a direct flight from Glasgow or Edinburgh wouldn't be full so the airlines would lose money

  • rate this

    Comment number 254.

    243 true

    Inverness had a BA service to Heathrow, down & back in a day. This was withdrawn, the landing slot handed over to a foreign slot.

    This means 1 you fly budget to London then travel to Heathrow carrying luggage or 2 travel to Aberdeen or Glasgow & fly to Heathrow.

    Direct flights from Dublin or Copenhagen to US & Europe are taken for granted, why not Glasgow or Edinburgh?

    C McK

  • rate this

    Comment number 253.

    LOL you need to get out more. You should try visiting the Ironbridge Gorge, Chatsworth House, Tate Liverpool, Royal Armouries, Beamish, York Minster, Hadrians Wall etc. etc. etc. You will see the huge number of overseas visitors who have twigged that "Britain" isn't just "London".

  • rate this

    Comment number 252.


    Another 7.5 Million flew in as tourists, how many of those came to see the wonders of Middlesbrough or Merthyr Tydfil or Kirkcaldy or Scunthorpe?//

    Most business people I know who fly into the UK from Europe end up visiting the Midlands. As for tourists, Oxford, Stratford, Bath, the Lake District, York, Cardiff, Bristol...all worth visiting, and closer to other airports than London's.

  • rate this

    Comment number 251.

    I would dispute the idea that airport expansion is necessary for 'growth'.
    I also dispute the link between 'growth' and prosperity.

    But most especially,. why on earth have more capacity in London?

    How about investing in air, road and rail travel in the North and Midlands?

    It would mean a better sharing of resources, and relieve pressure on London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 250.

    The expansion of selfish greed and inhumanity will always take precedence..

  • rate this

    Comment number 249.

    Kindly enlighten us when you moved there so your arguement can be justifiied or is it a NIMBY arguement?

  • rate this

    Comment number 248.

    What has airport extension got to do with dates of political elections !?
    Either get on with the job like private enterprise would or get out and let someone else deliver what is obviously needed, in reasonable time.
    Yes, other parts of UK also require attention, but why muddy the water.
    Far too much time is wasted debating climate change "gobbledygook".

  • rate this

    Comment number 247.

    Somebody once said 'get on your bike'. Who needs this? Or are we once again sucking up to the so called wealth makers. Given the current state of the UK they have left us in I would not trust any decision they make. But then some have already delayed it, maybe to eventually blame some one else when it all goes pear shaped. No way to run a country let alone a circus.

  • rate this

    Comment number 246.


    It is the very industry that if not contained, along with all other carbon intensive industries, that will send us back to somewhere near to the stone age......look at the damage the increased freak weather events are already having, & the real swings under climate change are only just begining to get going.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 245.

    8 Million people flew into the UK last year for business purposes, barely 12% of those had cause to visit a place of business outside the SE.

    Another 7.5 Million flew in as tourists, how many of those came to see the wonders of Middlesbrough or Merthyr Tydfil or Kirkcaldy or Scunthorpe?

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    #242: "We should be considering how to cope without an airline industry"

    Ridiculous. You may wish to go back to the stone age but the economy, and the lives of many individuals, are dependent on access to effective travel. If often wonder how many of those opposing aviation are, in fact, expressing irrational disapproval of the people who - by choice or necessity - travel by air.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    #241 Air connections between London & Scotland used to be far better than they are now. BA had an hourly shuttle between Heathrow and Glasgow, British Midland did the same route every few hours and Air UK flew to Gatwick from Glasgow. Glasgow used to have far better transatlantic services than at present too. Sad truth is many airlines have gone bust hence withdrawl of services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    The simply truth of the matter is that if we cut out all greenouse emissions today, apart from airline ones, then global warming would a lower pace but it would continue.....we should be considering how to cope without an airline industry.......& most definately should not be remotely considering increasing it.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    So basically there will be lots of discussion, money spent and hot air vented. Then they'll go and build a third runway at Heathrow.

    There is no will at WasteoftimeMonster to trust anything of worth to take place outwith London. It's in their DNA.

    Air connections to and fro Scotland are woeful, this is a bi-product on uk centralism on London

    C McK


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