A long-term solution to increasing the UK’s runway capacity, such as building a new airport, is needed rather than expanding Heathrow or Gatwick, according to Transport for London.
TfL, chaired by London mayor Boris Johnson, claims the government’s Airports Commission lacks “long-term vision” and placed more weight on “short-term commercial interests”.
Options floated by the commission in its interim report include the creation of a third runway at Heathrow or extending the northern runway to the west. Both would cause at least 750 homes to be demolished.
But TfL believes the extra runway would have swallowed all potential for growth by 2030, meaning domestic destinations would be “traded off against lucrative long-haul routes”.
Only a new four-runway hub, such as the Thames estuary proposal backed by the mayor, could address this issue properly, TfL says.
A TfL spokesman said: “The interim report and the recently published appraisal criteria places more weight on accommodating short-term commercial interests, than a strategic vision for aviation which is able to secure the UK’s long-term economic prosperity.
“The commission identify a significant capacity gap in 2050, but do not address this. They focus instead on runway capacity options to 2030. This does not provide the UK with a long-term plan.”
But commission chairman Sir Howard Davies accused Johnson of directing “vulgar abuse” at his group because “we don’t seem to have produced the answer he wanted us to produce.”
Speaking to the Transport Select Committee, Sir Howard dismissed what Johnson said about the commission’s report.
“The mayor has a particular view about hub capacity and a particular view about Heathrow and that’s where he starts and that’s where he ends,” he said.
“Anything that’s at variance with that is dismissed.
“Personally I don’t think it’s at all helpful that he uses this rather colourful language, but I guess that’s a matter of style; but I don’t think it particularly illuminates the debate to do so.”
Asked by Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick whether the commission could have delivered its findings before the next general election, Sir Howard admitted it would have been possible to publish a report sooner.
“If you ask if we could have delivered a report before the general election I’m sure we could have delivered a report but we were asked to do it after,” he replied.
However, Sir Howard insisted the commission was using the opportunity of a “relatively long timetable” to carry out detailed assessments into environmental consequences and rail and road links, in order to speed up the process once a new government takes a decision.
He stressed that a new government would have to make an “urgent” decision after the election, as there will be a “significant” aviation capacity problem in the middle of next decade.
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