The lack of progress in addressing runway capacity in the UK over the last 50 years is ‘shameful’, Chris Browne, chief operating officer of Tui Aviation told this week’s ITT conference.
“Leadership, courage, commitment, vision, making things happen, that’s what business looks to government to actually provide,” she said.
“I think we have to do better and we can do better. Leadership is all about preparing for the future. It’s all about recognising how the winds are travelling and going with them.”
Browne said when the Davies Commission reports in a few weeks time the government should “get it on” and act on the recommendations.
“What’s important is not what’s decided but that something is decided then we will all be able to plan for our future.”
Browne said expansion at Heathrow appears to be the better solution for UK plc while Gatwick is “less practical and environmentally challenging”.
She said a key issue to get right is funding. “It absolutely has to be funded properly. For us its about affordability.
“We are totally opposed to any form of pre-funding. This will transfer costs on to our customers. We have commissioned a study into how to fund huge infrastructure projects that does not require current users to pay.”
Andrew Cornish, chief executive of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, said the UK was a third world country when it came to aviation.
He said the UK was currently reliant on European hubs to compensate for a lack of capacity to give it connectivity to the world but that could not be guaranteed in the future.
And he said the biggest market distortions are created by the failure to address capacity and APD, which is stifling regional airports that could make up for the lack of capacity.
Cornish said if it was left to private enterprise both Gatwick and Heathrow would have new runways and compete.
“When [Howard] Davies makes his views known let’s make a decision. Fifty years is almost criminal.
“If it was not so serious it would be laughable. Even if a decision is made tomorrow it will be 2025-2030 before anything happens. What are we going to do in the interim?”
Cornish criticised the airport experience in the UK and said it was crazy that most people seek to avoid using the country’s main hub airport for the capital city.
Former Liberal Democratic MP Chris Huhne said the UK government was among the world’s most interventionist when it comes to decisions on land use and that all political parties have a consensus on protecting the interests of nimbies.
“It’s time we have a national debate about stopping that because there is a real cost.
“There is something wrong with the British political system or maybe it’s reflecting we as a nation are not grown up enough about these planning issues and we have to get real.
“The key thing is not to get into micro-managing green issues.”
Huhne said he thought ruling out a proposal for an entirely new airport in the Thames estuary had been a mistake.
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