Uncertainty over London airport expansion taking toll on economy, warn MPs

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TRAVEL GAZETTE – London’s position as a hub of international aviation is threatened by delays in deciding the location of expanded facilities in southeast England, a powerful House of Commons committee warned last week.

The Commons’ Transport Committee wants to see a third runway built at London Heathrow, but warns the opportunity to end decades of political dithering on airport expansion has been squandered.

In its hard-hitting report, the Transport Committee urges the Government’s Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin to set out a clear timetable for expansion.

The committee wants the Secretary to make clear the measures which have been accepted or rejected, and also detail the work which needs to be completed.

The report, which concludes that arguments for and against expansion have changed little in a quarter of a century, continues to back Heathrow with the package of accompanying measures recommended by the Airports Commission.

The chair of the Transport Committee, Labor MP, Louise Ellman, said: “The government must make up its mind. The decision on location is not the end of the process, it is the start of one. Real progress cannot begin until the location is declared. Work on environmental issues can run in parallel with other pre-construction work.

“Across the world, cities are collectively planning to build more than 50 new runways with capacity to serve one billion additional passenger journeys by 2036. The growth of large hubs in the Middle and Far East and North America threatens our position as a hub of international aviation. The UK’s connectivity with the world’s emerging markets is a major concern.”

Wednesday’s report documents the progress of the debate on airport expansion from the 1990s to the December 2015 statement in Parliament.

Referring to delays in making a decision, the report states: “The cost of this delay is measured ultimately in lost growth and jobs. It is not just businesses that are affected; residents near Heathrow and

Gatwick expectantly awaiting a decision are held in limbo. And people up and down the UK who could benefit from improved international and domestic connectivity are forced to wait.”

Secretary of State McLoughlin said the case for expansion was “clear” but further work was needed before a decision could be taken on location.

The government has indicated that the work should “conclude over the summer” so that a timetable for delivering additional capacity by 2030 could be met.

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