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 340.

    This cowardly, lazy and weak government stalls and U turns on yet another decision. Can someone tell them there is more to government than focusing purely on paying off an overdraft and taxing the honest and vulnerable ever more to do so while avoiding upsetting the greedy and workshy. Please can they make some decisions which will result in a more progressive, efficient and fairer Britain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Question? Does anyone know if planes leaving Heathrow are all full to capacity? It would be a pity to build a new runway if the passengers were not coming forward in droves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    New Airport in the Thames Estuary will be good idea to start on now, other airports will be needed too?

    Tourism boom has happened worldwide, China are building 52 runways, Dubai are building the largest airport, UK are an island we need NEW AIRPORTS start before next 5 years ! ! !

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    311. You
    Your comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules.


    Not sure having a phantasy breaks the laws of the land. Hey ho

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    If the airlines and travellers require additional capacity at LHR, just get on with providing it - now!

    => Nonsense. We have a government and transport policy to cater to all our interests, not just the bl**dy profiteers and their consumers. If said commercial firms said yes they don't give a toss how many villages are erased or people displaced? Profit, not people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    The London airport expansion industry seems to be a gaggle of vested interests all trying to benefit themselves. What we need is better regional airports, not behemoths causing severe aggravation to Londoners. Why should I have to travel to Heathrow (a hellish route even from Birmingham) when I've got an airport right by me?

    Germany does well with several prominent airports. We should too!

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    Would that be 'London' Luton Airport by any chance?
    If the powers that be connected their brain cells together and sorted out the high speed rail connection properly then it could be 'London', 'Birmingham', Manchester', 'Glasgow', etc Luton Airport

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    "I think it's going to be toxic and disastrous to go into the election of 2015 with Heathrow runway three still on the agendaā€¯

    => And pretty useless, too late, for the UK.
    Forget Heathrow and the huge social and health costs and move the centre of economy a little northward. No reason London should still be the Centre. The Thames was once important but in our IT 4G age why still push London?

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    So more taxpayer money paid to a rich person to do a study to find new ways of making money for his rich business friends ? We just can't wait to give taxpayer money to the already rich here in the UK.

    All of these airlines are private, profit making businesses so why aren't they footing the bill for his study which will no doubt cost millions of pounds ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Would that be 'London' Luton Airport by any chance?

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    This is a subliminal message for Sir Howard Davies...
    Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport. Luton Airport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    #317: "London Heathrow Largest amount of passengers worldwide"

    - busiest airport by aircraft movements: Atlanta (950K), LHR 12th (454K) - 2010
    - busiest by total passengers: Atlanta (92M), LHR 3rd (69M) - 2011

    "Increasing air traffic over a large city as London increases risk of a disaster - simple."

    ... except that there is absolutely no evidence to support this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    Boris, would you build and live in a house built in the estuary you propose to build an airport on?
    Just lie down and any extra flights could just land on your over inflated, self grandiose ego.
    You've already usurped the Olympics success. My abiding memory will be of you hanging motionless from the flying fox, ineffectual and full of piffle.
    Please go and wiff-waff somewhere else.

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    272. Tanglewood
    >>>The delays in this process are ridiculous. No "commissions" or lengthy public inquiries needed ... just ask the airlines and their customers, no-one else needs have any say on this.

    Well, actually they want to build a runway through your house - the bulldozers arrive tomorrow. I expect you're okay with that?

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    Boris Johnson is right - just get on with it. DO something. Stop faffing around.

    And while you're at it, think of giving some other part of the country a slice of the economic pie.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    The longer it takes for the government to decide and do the expansion to existing airports or even build a new one, the more it will cost the UK economy in the future. This decision should have been made years ago, now it's too little, too late. I think we are more likely to see a 2nd runway at Gatwick and a new hub airport at Stansted in the future. That makes more economic sense at the moment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    In the light of increasing disastrous weather events I think the expansion of the worlds airports is a fantastic idea. I don't know why I think this but please don't sop me having my three foreign holidays a year and all those lovely weekend breaks. Anyway, like the vast, vast majority of people, I thing global warming is rubbish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    112.cthulhu The south east needs extra capacity, ok, but the rest of the UK needs jobs
    We don't build airports to give people jobs! We build airports to serve a need. If people were traveling by air to the North in droves then there would be a need. But when my wife flew from Amsterdam to Leeds on Jet2 being the only person on the plane there clearly is no need for this capacity in the North.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    I would have thought it obviously quite logical to build elsewhere than at Heathrow with all the problems that airport has had in the recent past. Boris Johnston may appear to be a bit of a buffoon but I thoroughly agree with him when he puts forward the idea of building in the Thames Estuary area. He seems to be the only thinking Tory around with an excellent grip on reality.

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    If they want to increase capacity, why don't they use some of the redundant airfields that dot the countryside? Most of them are big enough. Oh I forgot - lousy road and rail links!


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