The Government’s deferment of a decision on airport expansion in the south east is bad news for the economy and will further erode confidence in Britain’s ability to compete in global markets, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warned.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin today confirmed to the House that an announcement would not be made until a new Conservative leader had been elected – October at the earliest – further delaying the long-awaited decision on a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick.
The Davies Commission concluded in July 2015 that Heathrow was the best option because of the economic benefits for the whole country, which included £147 billion in economic growth over the next 60 years and the creation on 70,000 new jobs by 2050. And the York Aviation report commissioned by FTA confirmed Heathrow as a vital hub for air cargo, offering 191 destinations and moving 1.5 million tonnes of freight annually.
Chris Welsh, FTA’s Director of Global & European Policy, said: “This is the third time a decision has been put off since the Davis Commission report was published last year. Increased airport capacity in the south east has become a political football and the situation must not be allowed to continue. Britain needs connections with the world now it has walked away from the EU.
“The Government needs to get on with its job and protect British industry – exporters and importers are crying out for leadership on this issue. The Davis Commission gave a clear recommendation for expansion at Heathrow and this was borne out by FTA’s own study – now we need to get on with it.”
FTA’s York Aviation report says Heathrow is currently operating at 98% capacity and needs to expand to meet demand. Air freight accounts for nearly 40% of UK imports and exports by value and 95% of air cargo is carried in the belly-hold of passenger aircraft. The air freight industry employs 39,000 people, mostly clustered around Heathrow – the UK’s main airport hub.