Heathrow decision delayed due to Syria debate

Heathrow decision delayed due to Syria debate

A final decision on a new runway in the southeast looks likely to be delayed until next week.

A meeting to determine airport expansion in the southeast was postponed due to today’s Commons debate and vote on military action in Syria.

The subject of a new runway is now unlikely to be approached before Monday, the Times reported.

A ten-strong cabinet sub-committee had been due to meet yesterday to consider the case for expansion, with a new northwestern runway at Heathrow widely tipped to be approved over expansion of rival Gatwick.

The latest twist in the airport expansion saga came as Virgin Atlantic was reported as attacking the “exorbitant cost” of a third runway at Heathrow.

Virgin Atlantic complained that airlines would be charged more “than is fair or necessary” to use the airport, because it believes that the £17.6 billion construction cost would be passed on.

Heathrow’s second biggest carrier after British Airways said that it supported the principle of a third runway but insisted that the airport must “share the benefits of growth between consumers, businesses and local residents”.

The airline said: “The exorbitant cost of new infrastructure must be reined in, and today’s passengers must not be asked to fund infrastructure they may never use, or not for another ten years.”

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA parent company International Airlines Group, said last week that the expansion of Heathrow would place an outrageous burden on airlines and passengers.

Meanwhile, London mayor and Uxbridge & South Ruislip MP, Boris Johnson, claimed an expanded Heathrow would expose more residents to noise than the next five biggest airports in Europe combined.

MPs on the environmental audit select committee had said that approval for a third runway should not be granted until Heathrow could meet key conditions on climate change, air quality and noise.

The committee yesterday published written evidence submitted to the inquiry from environmental groups, residents and airlines.

Johnson told MPs that Heathrow would remain “the worst airport in Europe for aircraft noise”, with more people exposed to unreasonable levels than its five main European rivals - Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Madrid and Munich - combined.

Heathrow has said that fewer people would ultimately be exposed to noise because of the introduction of quieter aircraft, steeper landing approaches and more accurate flight paths.

But Johnson said: “Claims that a third runway delivers less noise stretch credulity. Modelling undertaken with assumptions closer to today’s operation suggest a million people would be exposed to significant noise by a three-runway Heathrow.”

Responding to the environmental audit committee’s report, Heathrow environment and sustainability director, Matt Gorman, said earlier this week: “The committee is absolutely right that the environmental impact of a third runway must be considered alongside the economic benefits expansion will bring.

“Our new plan for expansion has ensured that Heathrow will be quieter, public transport to the airport will be transformed and air quality will continue to be improved and limits will be met.

“We have committed to significantly increase the amount of time each night without any scheduled flights but believe the start and finish time of a night flight ban should be decided by government through consultation, which must include the local community.”

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