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Birmingham Airport backs Davies Commission report setting out case for new runways in London and south-east

Birmingham Airport backs Davies Commission report setting out case for new runways in London and south-east

🕔08.Oct 2013

The commission set up to make recommendations about the future of UK aviation has arrived at its first entirely predictable conclusion – that airports in London and the south-east will require additional runways to cope with growing passenger demand.

In a blow to environmentalists, Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Airports Commission, said it was clear the market in its present form would not be able to meet predicted growth and that the expansion of regional airports alone would not provide enough additional capacity either.

Sir Howard made three main points:

  • Pressure on the UK’s busiest airports is likely to continue to grow even if a more conservative view of future aviation demand is taken than. This is likely to see levels of future demand in excess of capacity in the south-east of England airport system.
  • This appears to be the case even if future aviation demand is constrained in order to meet the government’s legislated climate change objectives.
  • It is difficult to see how the market alone could resolve the capacity/demand imbalance in the south-east. Regional airports are already serving their local markets effectively but it is difficult to see how they can absorb all the excess demand.

The commission’s preliminary findings, upon which public comment is invited, could be good news for supporters of a new runway at Heathrow, who include Ed Balls, the shadow chancellor.

However, Sir Howard did not say where the commission thought new runways should be built.

The announcement drew broad support from Birmingham Airport, which is considering building a second runway and envisages closer links to Heathrow when the HS2 high speed rail line is built.

Birmingham Airport chief executive Paul Kehoe said: “We welcome this as a positive step towards putting in place a long-term aviation strategy that supports the wider UK economy.

“At Birmingham Airport, we believe that this country needs a network of long-haul airports serving our great cities. Clearly, getting the right amount of aviation capacity for London is absolutely critical for the smooth functioning of such a network – but that is not the end of the story.

“To build a balanced Britain, we need international gateways up and down the country that are delivering on all cylinders for economies across the whole of the UK – including the South East, the Midlands, the north and Scotland.”

Mr Kehoe said Birmingham would be interested to see the commission’s Interim Report, due in December, which is expected to focus on aviation and the national economy and may make proposals about regional airport growth.

In a speech in London announcing the commission’s preliminary findings, Sir Howard said: “Our provisional conclusion is that we will need some net additional runway capacity in the south-east of England in the coming decades.

“To rely only on runways currently in operation would be likely to produce a distinctly sub-optimal solution for passengers, connectivity and the economy and would also almost certainly not be the best solution in terms of minimising the overall carbon impact of flights and travel to and from airports.

“A mechanism for managing the carbon impacts of aviation will be needed if the UK is to achieve its statutory carbon targets – just as it will in other countries. This is the case whether new runway capacity is provided in the south east or not.”

The Airports Commission was launched in November 2012. Its terms of reference require that it should report on:

  • Its assessment of the evidence on the nature, scale and timing of the steps needed to maintain the UK’s global hub status
  • Recommendations for immediate actions to improve the use of existing runway capacity in the next five years – consistent with credible long term options
  • The options for meeting the UK’s international connectivity needs, including their economic, social and environmental impact
  • Recommendations for the optimum approach to meeting any needs while ensuring that the need is met as expeditiously as practicable within the required timescale.
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