Runway decision delay draws backlash

Runway decision delay draws backlash

A post-Brexit vote decision to further delay a decision on a new runway runway for the south-east until at least October has drawn stinging industry criticism.

Paul Wait, chief executive of the GTMC, called for an urgent reassessment of the delay announced by transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, made to allow for a successor to David Cameron as prime minister to be in place following the referendum vote.

Stansted owner Manchester Airports Group seized on the announcement as an opportunity fore the government to “step back” from the debate over new runways at either Heathrow or Gatwick and let the market decide where new capacity should be built.

Wait said: “Delay after delay is causing significant hurt for businesses. Without an increase in air capacity, UK businesses cannot grow and international businesses cannot make the necessary investments into this country.

“Current political instability is jeopardising economic growth in many ways. For uncertainty on airport expansion to also be caught up in the shifting sands is both short-sighted and dangerous.

“Regardless of political beliefs, every UK business is crying out for messages of confidence and room to find new growth, including outside of Europe. Without greater airport capacity, and soon, UK businesses will be collateral damage in the circus that is currently unfolding.

“We urge an urgent reassessment of this delay.”

A MAG spokesman said:

"Today's delay again highlights why government must give priority to accelerating measures to make best use of the runway capacity this country already has, such as improving rail links to Stansted and encouraging new long haul connectivity across the country.

"With no resolution in sight, now is also the time for government to step back from the decision on runway capacity and let the market decide where and when new capacity should be delivered.

“Competition will always provide the best outcome for passengers and airlines."

Tim Alderslade, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association, said: “Before the referendum last week the government was gearing up to set out where it stood on airport expansion, probably in a matter of weeks.

“We see no reason why this still should not take place. The Airports Commission was unanimous that we do need to see additional capacity in the south-east if we are to maintain our position as an international aviation hub. Nothing that has happened in the past week has altered that fact.

“Indeed, the referendum result means there is now an even more vital role for UK aviation and need for the country to have improved transport links with the rest of the world.

“A speedy decision on airport capacity would not only send a clear and positive signal that the UK is still in business, but will help lay the foundations for economic growth at a time when the country needs it most.

“It will now be a priority for the new prime minister and government to put all other considerations aside and make this crucial decision in the long-term national interest and as soon as possible. The country simply cannot afford yet more delay.”

Airport Operators Association chief executive Darren Caplan said: “This additional delay comes at a time when all are agreed that clear action is needed to demonstrate the UK is open for business and confident about its future.

“At this time of increased uncertainty, the government should be putting its foot on the accelerator of the UK economy – not delaying making important infrastructure decisions that can help it succeed.

“We continue to urge the government to make a decision on airport capacity as soon as possible.”

He added: “We also urge the government to update its aviation policy framework as soon as possible too. The framework was set in 2013 yet the Department for Transport’s own passenger forecasts from then show that London and south-east airports will all be full up by 2030 and airports outside the south-east will be filling up from 2040.

“As well as delivering the additional capacity the UK needs to enable world-class links to both existing and emerging markets, the government really does need to show some urgency on wider UK airports policy, setting out how we can make better use of existing airport capacity around the UK, for example modernising UK airspace and enhancing surface access links to airports.”

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye called for a third runway at the airport to be part of the government’s Brexit plan.

“If Britain wants to be confident, outward-looking and at the centre of the world’s economy then expanding Heathrow must be a key building block in the government’s Brexit plan,” he said.

“It will allow British exporters to trade with all the growing markets of the world, strengthening Britain’s position as one of the great trading nations.

“And at a time of uncertainty a £16 billion privately funded infrastructure investment will create jobs and growth across the UK.

“Government can send the strongest possible signal that Britain is open for business and confident in its future by expanding Heathrow.”

Gatwick will continue to press its case for a second runway with the new leader of the Conservatives, according to chief executive Stewart Wingate.

Wingate said: “The need for Britain to expand aviation capacity has never been greater. At an uncertain time Britain needs to show it can be agile and decisive. We must move on and show the world that we are open for business.

"Gatwick is already the most connected airport in the UK, offering Britain connections to all five continents, to developed and emerging markets alike. It is now clear that only Gatwick can deliver the expansion we need and do so by 2025.

“We can help improve our international competitive position by offering the fastest possible improvement to our trading links at a time when it is most necessary.

“There is nothing in our way. The time for debate is now over and the time has come for Britain to get on with it. We can privately finance the project. We can offer a fair deal for those most impacted and we can support growth across all regions of the country. We can deliver the runway that Britain needs. It's time to expand Gatwick.”

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