To expand Heathrow, or not to expand Heathrow - that is now the question

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After just over two years, the Airports Commission, set up by government to 'identify and recommend options to maintain the UK’s position as Europe’s most important aviation hub', has delivered its final recommendation.

 

The Commission has

"unanimously concluded that the proposal for a new northwest runway at Heathrow Airport, combined with a significant package of measures to address its environmental and community impacts, presents the strongest case and offers the greatest strategic and economic benefits."

The choice for the government is now to either accept the recommendation to expand Heathrow or reject it.

The Commission in its analysis notes a number of reasons why, of the three shortlisted options, a new northwest runway at Heathrow would be best. For manufacturers, the crucial reason is freight - airports are more important than you think.

Heathrow is a global freight hub and the clear preference for manufacturers with a business need for aviation expansion.

As the Commission notes:

"Heathrow is also the country’s largest air freight hub, carrying more freight by value than all the other UK airports combined. The long-haul links that an expanded Heathrow can provide will support long-term growth in this sector, which plays an important role in supporting trade, including with emerging markets."
Their interim report showed the significant benefits an expanded Heathrow would bring to the manufacturing sector.

We've blogged before on how important freight is to aviation and why only Heathrow can secure our global freight connectivity.

In coming to a decision on whether or not it will reject this recommendation the government will need to weight up many aspects.

The main two are the economic benefits that an expanded Heathrow would provide against the environmental and noise impacts.

The Commission sought to balance this by including a package of measures such as a ban on night flights, a legal noise envelope, a new noise levy, a legal commitment on air quality and a new independent noise authority.

The choice facing decision makers

Ultimately the government will have to decide, do we secure our connectivity with the world along with the trade and other opportunities that come with it while dealing with the negative impacts of aviation on our own terms.

Or do we rely on other international hub airports to maintain our connectivity, while exporting the negative aspects of aviation to these other cities to deal with.

After over two years, the government needs to get on with making that decision.

Author

Head of Business Environment Policy

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