MPs question Heathrow expansion case

December 6 2017   | Region: Cymru Wales, East Midlands, East of England, London, North East & Cumbria, North West, Northern Ireland, Scotland, South East, South West, West Midlands, Yorkshire & the Humber

MPs question Heathrow expansion case

Arguments over how best to expand aviation capacity in the South East were back on the table on Monday, as the Transport Select Committee kicked off an inquiry into the Government’s Airports National Policy Statement.

The committee of MPs questioned representatives from the Department for Transport and the National Infrastructure Commission about the economic case for a third runway at Heathrow.

DfT aviation capacity delivery director Caroline Low admitted that Gatwick offers greater long term economic benefits than the Government backed Heathrow north west runway option.

However she argued that benefits would come forward much faster with a new runway at Heathrow, adding that the strategic case for this option in terms of providing connectivity for the UK outweighs Gatwick’s offer.

National Infrastructure Commission chief executive Philip Graham, who was previously involved with the Airports Commission, added: “The greatest capacity constraint that we identified within the South East was by far capacity for long haul services.
“The commission’s strategic analysis of the aviation industry indicated that this was likely to be most effectively addressed by expansion at the established hub airport.”

He also explained that Heathrow offered a number of other strategic benefits including being most easily accessible from other parts of the UK.

However when questioned on the estimated delivery date for a third runway at Heathrow – which one committee member claimed will be needed by 2026 – Caroline Low said the scheme was unlikely to be in place until 2030.

Also appearing in front of the Transport Select Committee, Gatwick’s chief financial officer Nick Dunn welcomed the recognition that a new runway at the West Sussex site could deliver the best economic value for the UK.

He added that Gatwick remains keen to develop its own runway capacity whatever decision is made about Heathrow. “There is an opportunity to make this a National Policy Statement that is somewhat more ambitious and also genuinely national in outlook, rather than focusing on a single site,” he said.

The committee also heard from ‘Heathrow Hub’ director Jock Lowe who is backing an idea to extend Heathrow’s existing northern runway rather than to build a new third runway. This followed the launch of an independent review commissioned by Heathrow Hub this week, which casts doubt on the viability the Heathrow third runway plans.

The review says that the Government’s preferred scheme will not be able to deliver on its claimed capacity benefits if it is to operate safely, and adds that the noise impact will be greater than its own proposal. Jock Lowe said: “The sooner the Government realises it has made a significant mistake in recommending Heathrow Airport’s expensive, complex scheme the better.

“Our scheme for expanding Heathrow can be done in phases and is cheaper for the same capacity,” he told the committee.

(Photo: Heathrow Airports Ltd)

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