COMMONS

Transport Committee Chair urges expansion at Heathrow

16 December 2013

Ahead of the publication of the Airports Commission's interim report, the Chair of the Transport Committee rejects calls for a new hub airport east of London and urges expansion at Heathrow, as recommended in the Committee's report published earlier this year.

Commenting ahead of the publication the Airports Commission interim report  Louise Ellman, Chair of the House of Commons' Transport Committee said today:

"I look forward to learning what the Airports Commission has concluded at this stage and to the debate that should follow on how best to maintain the UK's status as an international aviation hub vital to our economy by offering connectivity to a wide range of destinations across the globe.

Earlier this year we completed a comprehensive inquiry into the Government’s aviation strategy and published a report setting out our conclusion on this important subject. The Government did not reply in full, as it did not wish to prejudge the work of the Airports Commission. We hope that publication of the Commission's interim report will now move the debate forward."

The Committee's report looking at the Government's aviation strategy:

  • Recognised that demand for air travel across the UK is forecast to grow, confirmed that aviation should be permitted to expand and accepted that more capacity is necessary to accommodate sustainable aviation growth. 
  • Reviewed three main options by which the UK could increase its hub airport capacity, and concluded that an entirely new hub airport east of London could not be built without huge public investment in ground transport infrastructure  and substantial impact on wildlife habitat in the Thames estuary.
  • Concluded that 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 and businesses in the vicinity of the existing airport and the local economy.
  • Found that adding new runways to expand a number of other existing airports would not, on its own, provide a long-term solution to the UK's hub airport capacity problem. 
  • Encouraged Gatwick’s operator to develop a robust business case for their vision of a second runway.
  • Rejected 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.

"The inquiry found very clearly that Heathrow – the UK's only hub airport – has been short of capacity for a decade,  is currently operating at full capacity and needs a third runway. We also suggested that a four-runway proposal for Heathrow might have merit, especially if locating these westwards from the current site could curb the noise experienced by communities under the flight path," added Louise Ellman.

Notes for editors

The Transport Committee's report was agreed in May 2013 by a majority of the members serving on the Committee at the time, with six voting in favour, one (Adrian Sanders MP) voting against, no abstentions, and no vote by the Chair (as they only vote when there is a tie).

Image: iStockphoto

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