Committee calls for expansion at Heathrow
10 May 2013
The Transport Committee has rejected calls for a new hub airport east of London and urges the Government to permit the expansion of Heathrow where a third runway is long overdue.
Launching the report of an inquiry that examined the UK Government's Aviation Strategy, Louise Ellman, Chair of the House of Commons' Transport Committee said:
"Aviation is vital to our economy and it is essential for the UK to maintain its status with an international aviation hub offering connectivity to a wide range of destinations across the globe.
We recognise that demand for air travel across the UK is forecast to grow, believe that aviation should be permitted to expand and accept that more capacity is necessary to accommodate sustainable aviation growth.
We looked closely at the three main options by which the UK could increase its hub airport capacity. Research we commissioned made plain that building an entirely new hub airport east of London could not be done without huge public investment in new ground transport infrastructure.
Evidence to our inquiry also showed a substantial potential impact on wildlife habitat in the Thames estuary.
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, businesses in the vicinity of the existing airport and the local economy.
Heathrow – the UK's only hub airport – has been short of capacity for a decade and is currently operating at full capacity.
We conclude that a third runway at Heathrow is necessary, but also suggest that a four-runway proposal may have merit, especially if expanding to locate two new runways westwards from the current site could curb the noise experienced by people affected under the flight path.
We conclude that adding new runways to expand a number of other existing airports will not, on its own, provide a long-term solution to the hub capacity problem. We do however encourage Gatwick’s operator to develop a robust business case for their vision of a second runway.
We reject 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."
In other core findings the Committee calls on the Airports Commission to:
- Address concerns highlighted during the inquiry that current DfT long term aviation forecasts may not take sufficient account of factors – such as HS2 – likely to impact the UK economy.
- Assess the impact of introducing an unrestricted open skies policy outside the south east, to help airports in the regions secure new direct services.
The Committee likewise calls on the Government to:
- Establish a national scheme to ensure adequate compensation for people affected by noise from expansion at Heathrow.
- Develop a coherent national strategy to improve road and rail access sufficient to address significant problems that exist with surface transport connections to major UK airports.
- Ensure that the High Speed 2 (HS2) rail network serves Heathrow and develop dedicated rail services to serve Gatwick and Stansted.
- Take a more active role in promoting airports in regions outside the south east.
- Investigate whether it would be possible (under EU rules) to protect slots at Heathrow for feeder services from poorly served regions.
- Conduct and publish a fully costed study of how far Air Passenger Duty impacts on the UK economy and, if this provides clear evidence that the duty causes harm to the economy or government revenue, moves to significantly reduce or abolish APD.
- Carry out an objective analysis of the impacts of introducing differential rates of Air Passenger Duty.
- Introduce an APD tax holiday for a 12-month trial period for new services operating out of airports outside the south east.
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