A World Travel Market survey has revealed major support for an expansion of Heathrow Airport among tourism chiefs. They would prefer that a third runway is built at the hub over a new airport being built in the Thames Estuary.
The research found that 28% of holidaymakers support a Heathrow Airport expansion, while 25% support a new airport in the Thames Estuary. On top of this, 34% of senior tourism officials support a third Heathrow runway, while just 14% are in favour of a new Thames Estuary airport. Simon Press, the director of World Travel Market, said that it’s clear senior travel bosses from around the world favour the expansion of Heathrow. Additionally, other airport expansions in the south-east are more popular than building a new Thames Estuary airport, which suggests overseas tourism officials think the government should avoid an ambitious and expensive solution when better ones are available.
This survey was released just days after Sir Howard Davies revealed a commission that will report on additional airport capacity in Britain. The former Financial Services Authority (FSA) head outlined the details of the review on Friday, and an interim report will be due by the end of next year. The review will recommend a narrow series of options for the increased capacity, as they want to rule out several of the solutions being considered now. Then a final report will be published in 2015 before the next election. Sir Howard says that they want to narrow down the options, as having a long period with too many ideas being considered can have economic downsides.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, however, has urged Sir Howard not to consider a third Hearhrow Airport runway at all, calling it a ‘violently unpopular’ option. He says it’s disastrous and toxic to go into the 2015 election with the possibility of such an expansion that will cause millions of Londoners uncertainty and anxiety. He also criticised the slow action the government has taken on aviation policy, saying that China plans to build 52 runways over the coming nine years, while the UK has planned none.
Johnson was joined by the Institute of Directors’ Corin Taylor, who said that it seems like Sir Howard’s commission will have solid conclusions before 2015 based on extensive research. Businesses need to know these conclusions as soon as possible. Heathrow Association for the Control of Aircraft Noise chairman John Stewart added that he is pleased Sir Howard will be looking at demand first. Aviation consultant John Strickland says that this challenge will mean Sir Howard has to cut through a lot of partisan views about the aviation industry.
However, Prime Minister David Cameron said on Saturday that Johnson is wrong for dismissing expansion at Heathrow, and he won’t be given a veto on the matter. In the end, he says the decision is a national decision that the government will lead. It’s not right that the mayor only wants his preferred options considered.
The matter of aviation policy and airport capacity in the south-east has been an ongoing controversy. The government had initially ruled out a third runway at Heathrow as a solution, but now there’s a chance with this review that they will make a u-turn on the decision after the next election.