'Boris Island' rejected by Transport Select Committee

'Boris Island' rejected by Transport Select Committee

Calls from London mayor Boris Johnson for a new hub airport east of London have been rejected by MPs on the House of Commons transport committee.

Instead the government is being urged to allow the expansion of Heathrow where a third runway is “long overdue”.

MPs want the government to carry out an “objective analysis” of the impacts of introducing differential rates of Air Passenger Duty.

They also want to see an APD ‘tax holiday’ for a 12-month trial period for new services operating out of airports outside the southeast.

A fully-costed study of how far APD impacts on the UK economy should be conducted. If this provides clear evidence that the duty causes harm to the economy or government revenue, moves must be made to “significantly reduce” or abolish APD.

Committee chairman Louise Ellman said: “Aviation is vital to our economy and it is essential for the UK to maintain its status with an international aviation hub offering connectivity to a wide range of destinations across the globe.

“We recognise that demand for air travel across the UK is forecast to grow, believe that aviation should be permitted to expand and accept that more capacity is necessary to accommodate sustainable aviation growth.”

Issuing the report of an inquiry that examined the government’s aviation strategy, she said: “We looked closely at the three main options by which the UK could increase its hub airport capacity.

“Research we commissioned made plain that building an entirely new hub airport east of London could not be done without huge public investment in new ground transport infrastructure. Evidence to our inquiry also showed a substantial potential impact on wildlife habitat in the Thames estuary.

“The viability of an estuary hub airport would also require the closure of Heathrow – a course of action that would have unacceptable consequences for individuals, businesses in the vicinity of the existing airport and the local economy.

“Heathrow – the UK’s only hub airport – has been short of capacity for a decade and is currently operating at full capacity.

“We conclude that a third runway at Heathrow is necessary,  but also suggest that a four-runway proposal may have merit, especially if expanding to locate two new runways westwards from the current site could curb the noise experienced by people affected under the flight path.” Ellman said.

“We conclude that adding new runways to expand a number of other existing airports will not, on its own, provide a long-term solution to the hub capacity problem. We do however encourage Gatwick’s operator to develop a robust business case for their vision of a second runway.

“We reject the notion of linking existing airports by high-speed rail to form a split-hub; the outcome from this would be highly uncompetitive in terms of passenger transfer times compared to competitor hubs overseas."

Johnson told the BBC: "The committee is bang on the button in saying we need a proper hub airport. But, by suggesting that Heathrow should double its runways from two to four, the committee is putting four fingers up to hundreds of thousands of Londoners.

"London and the wider UK do need a hub airport that can operate 24 hours a day without constraint and the only place that is possible is to the east of London."

In other key findings the Committee calls on the government appointed Airports Commission to:

  • Address concerns highlighted during the inquiry that current Department for Transport long-term aviation forecasts may not take sufficient account of factors - such as HS2 – likely to impact the UK economy.
  • Assess the impact of introducing an unrestricted open skies policy outside the southeast, to help airports in the regions secure new direct services.

 The committee is calling on the government to:

  • Establish a national scheme to ensure adequate compensation for people affected by noise from expansion at Heathrow.
  • Develop a coherent national strategy to improve road and rail access sufficient to address significant problems that exist with surface transport connections to major UK airports.
  • Ensure that the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail network serves Heathrow and develop dedicated rail services to serve Gatwick and Stansted.
  • Take a more active role in promoting airports in regions outside the south east.
  • Investigate whether it would be possible (under EU rules) to protect slots at Heathrow for feeder services from poorly served regions.


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