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Louise Ellman MP: Come Fly with Me - Increasing UK aviation capacity is urgent

PoliticsHome | London First

3 min read

Labour Co-operative MP Louise Ellman calls for a swift decision on airport expansion when the Davies Commission makes its recommendations after the general election.     

A decision on addressing the shortage of airport capacity in the South East may have been postponed until after the general election but it remains a key issue affecting our economy and future prosperity. With Heathrow full, Gatwick due to reach its capacity by 2020 and all of the capital’s airports predicted to be full by 2030, it is clear that something needs to be done.

In 2009 the Labour government took the decision to expand Heathrow – a decision overturned by the Coalition. With the agreement of all parties, the tricky issue of airport capacity was kicked into the long grass through the creation of the Davies Airports Commission. While this has provided time for analysis of the proposed expansion options, we must be clear that, given how long any solution will take to deliver, decision day will soon arrive.

The need is urgent; other countries are not resting on their laurels. A recent analysis by KPMG and Let Britain Fly showed that the world’s cities are planning to build more than 50 new runways with the capacity to serve one billion additional passenger journeys by 2036.

The debate on airport capacity has shifted significantly over recent months. Most significantly, the Airports Commission has recommended that the UK will need one net new runway by 2030 to cope with rising demand. Alongside this, there have been huge steps in relation to sustainability including an encouraging report from the independent Committee on Climate Change which suggested that a 60% increase in flights to 2050 is compatible with the Government’s overall carbon reduction targets. Today’s jet aircraft are on average 75% quieter than their 1960s counterparts and there has been growing support for an independent noise authority which would act as a trusted intermediary between airports and their local communities.

The economic benefit of expansion at either Heathrow or Gatwick is estimated to be between £100bn and £200bn, with anywhere from 30,000 – 108,000 jobs created by 2050.  These figures are significant. Air expansion could also provide a boost for British exports, 40% of which by value travel by air, the majority in the belly-holds of passenger planes.

This is why airports expansion is not just a question of London’s future but is about the whole of the UK. As MP for Liverpool Riverside I represent a city which, unbelievably, has no direct link with the capital, unlike other cities across the country including Newcastle, Leeds and Exeter. Increased airport capacity in the south east should make it possible for more domestic connections within the UK and provide cities such as Liverpool, Carlisle and Humberside with links to London airports and their onward connections to the rest of the world. This, however, is not automatic and requires specific efforts.

In a recent speech, the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls made a commitment that the next Labour government would make a swift decision on expanding airport capacity following the Airports Commission’s Final Report and taking into account environmental concerns.

It is important to achieve cross-party agreement on major infrastructure decisions to ensure they are delivered. Airport expansion is a topic that will not go away. When the Davies commission reports, it will be decision time!

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