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Business community 'disappointed and dismayed' by latest airport expansion delay

London First

3 min read Partner content

A year after the Airports Commission’s final report, David Cameron has indicated that he will leave the decision on airport expansion to his successor. Let Britain Fly urges the Government to fast-track a new airport runway.


The entire business community will be disappointed and dismayed by the latest delay in making a final decision on airport expansion in London and the South East. Given we have already had years of dither on this issue you’d think that instead of kicking the can down the road further still, the government would have recognised the need to just get on and make a decision one way or the other.

Not least as last week marked the one year anniversary of the Airports Commission publishing its final report, which followed two and a half years of examining the evidence by experts and cost millions of pounds.

It is clear that following the EU referendum result, the economic case for a new runway has never been stronger or more compelling. If we are to have a coherent plan for Britain to chart its future relationship with the EU and world, then fast-tracking a new runway must be front and centre of such a plan.

Sufficient air links are the most basic and fundamental condition of access to world markets for an island nation. If we are to forge new trading partnerships with the rest of the globe, especially growth economies such as Brazil and China, where our connectivity is currently less competitive than our European rivals, then doing nothing on airport expansion is simply not an option.

The fact is Frankfurt already serves double the number of destinations to Brazil – five destinations served to London’s two. Whilst Paris serves fifty per cent more flights per year to mainland China – three thousand flights per year to London’s two thousand. The situation will only get worse without extra capacity.

Given all the economic and political turmoil of the past week or so this was an opportunity for the government to grasp the nettle, put politics to one side and get on and make a big strategic decision in the national interest. Sending a clear message to the world that Britain is open for business. But that opportunity has now been squandered.

This further delay will only do even more harm to our international competitiveness at a time when the government should be doing everything it can to protect jobs and growth and cushion the economic impact of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.

In the twelve months since the Airports Commission published its final report, even before the dramatic political events that have unfolded over recent days, Britain has already become less competitive as a global aviation hub.

Heathrow has fallen from third busiest international airport to sixth. Meanwhile in recent months Dublin announced its ambitious plan to build a new runway by 2020 in just four years’ time. If the Irish can get it built in that time frame why on earth can’t we?

Here all Ministers are willing to commit to is a new runway in operation by 2030 – yet with the latest delay even that rather generous timetable is now in question.

One of the top priorities of the next Prime Minister must be making a decision on airport expansion – it will be one of the first key tests of their leadership. Such a decision would go a long way to restoring business and investor confidence and provide a much needed boost to the economy.

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