Airport Capacity

Articles, The NewsEditor

Both Gawick and Heathrow have submitted more information to the Airports Commission setting out why they are the right choice for expansion of capacity in London and the South East. An estuary airport appears to be sidelined, although reports yesterday mentioned it fleetingly as 'an option still on the table'. Given the momentum, City Hall must have something of a sinking feeling about their pet project. Gatwick are pushing the angle that expansion there would lead to a more competitive market, benefiting the UK more widely in the process. Understandably they also take a knock at the political difficulties of expanding Heathrow. On the Today Programme, the CEO of Gatwick said:

"A runway at Gatwick will be deliverable. After decades of dither and dather, it’s important that this time around that we actually come up with a solution that will be delivered and will result in a runway being built."

Heathrow meanwhile has claimed that the Heathrow Hub idea would deliver a £100bn fillip for the UK economy, delivering the only true 'hub' airport proposal for London. An increased compensation fund for local residents has been suggested and their CEO also frames the argument as not Heathrow vs Gatwick, but "it is between Britain, France and Germany."

Of course, Sir Howard Davies' Commission will not report back until after the General Election in 2015. The Conservatives has a number of political difficulties in supporting Heathrow expansion - they were set against it in their manifesto and a number of prominent members (Boris, Zac Goldsmith, Justine Greening) threaten resignation if it goes ahead. The Lib Dems find themselves in a similar position while Labour appears to be agnostic about the better option.

Perhaps that means Gatwick is the only politically acceptable option but, in truth, it's a fool's errand predicting a decision which will be made after a General Election by a government of unknown make-up. The Standard takes a different view in a rather pessimistic editorial:

In the end, Heathrow looks like the default option more likely to appeal to either a Tory or Labour government. If it is chosen, however, that will herald a new phase in the long battle between west Londoners, currently backed by the Mayor, and proponents of Heathrow expansion. London needs more long-haul airport capacity — but it could still be a long way off getting it.

We're less than a year from a General Election. LondonUnlocked would hope, given the importance of this topic, each major party outlines its preferred option for expansion of capacity in their manifestos, (hopefully) allowing quick movement on this issue once the Davies Commission issues its final report.