South East runway delay 'holding up road and rail improvements'

Heathrow Terminal 5 Image copyright PA/Steve Parsons
Image caption The final decision on whether to expand Gatwick or Heathrow has been delayed until the summer

Delays to the expansion of Heathrow or Gatwick are holding up improved road and rail links to airports across the country, MPs have warned.

The Commons Transport Select Committee has accused ministers of making "little headway" on boosting airport access.

Chair Louise Ellman said there had been a failure to develop an integrated approach to transport planning.

There was also no clear plan to upgrade rail infrastructure to link cities and airports across the North, she said.

Ms Ellman said: "When a decision is finally made about airport expansion in the South East, this must be accompanied by a clear plan to optimise connectivity between regional transport hubs across the country.

"This will provide much-needed national coherence on transport planning matters."

She said local areas and regional airports could not be expected to deliver their own plans effectively unless there was "a vision for the country" as a whole.

Image copyright Heathrow Airport
Image caption The Airports Commission recommended a third runway should be built at Heathrow
Image copyright Gatwick Airport
Image caption A second runway at Gatwick has not been completely ruled out

An independent report by the Airports Commission recommended building a new runway at Heathrow rather than providing a second runway at Gatwick.

But it did not completely rule out another runway at Gatwick or doubling an existing runway at Heathrow.

The government has delayed acting on the report, published in July, until further analysis of potential environmental impact is carried out.

No final decision will be made until the summer at the earliest.

Airport expansion - what are the options?

Building a third runway at Heathrow

Extending an existing runway at Heathrow

Second runway at Gatwick Airport

Heathrow Airport: Why the renewed delay?

Why is it so hard to decide on major building projects?

The government's Heathrow problem

The politics of Heathrow expansion

Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, recommended Heathrow should pay the £5bn cost of road and rail improvements, including digging a tunnel for the M25, if it builds a third runway.

But the airport's chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, has previously insisted the government should foot the bill.

Ms Ellman called on ministers to be clearer about where the "boundary lies" on which improvements to road and rail links airports should pay for.

"The government should ensure local authorities, airports and the national network operators can work together to identify relevant surface access infrastructure improvements and the means to fund them," the committee's report said.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: "We are investing unprecedented amounts of money to deliver infrastructure fit for the 21st Century.

"This includes closely working with airport operators, local authorities, Highways England and Network Rail to ensure airport access is the very best.

"We welcome the Transport Select Committee's work on this issue and we will respond fully on the recommendations set out in the report in due course."

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