Plans for Third Heathrow Runway Return

Aerial View of London Heathrow AirportA senior representative for London Mayor Boris Johnson says that the government won’t block BAA from submitting plans for a third runway at Heathrow Airport at a revamp of policy on aviation hubs that’s coming up. This would be a move to thwart the threat of legal action by the company.

Johnson’s aviation policy chief, Daniel Moylan, says this doesn’t mean a third runway is back on the policy agenda. Johnson understands that the government will have to allow every option to be examined due to legal reasons. He’s the most prominent political backer of a new hub in the south-east, and this includes a new airport in the Thames estuary. Despite this, Moylan noted, he’s against a Heathrow expansion.

Two aviation documents are being launched by the government in July – 1) a consultation on a sustainable framework for aviation; and 2) a request for options to maintain airport hubs in Britain. If BAA pushes for a third runway in response to the request, an industry source says the government may use the principles established in the study for sustainable aviation to either resurrect the option or rule it out for good. If the requirements for a sustainable aviation policy can be met with a third runway at Heathrow Airport, the plans will be filtered through for consideration. However, they will be filtered out if the requirements can’t be met. That’s a strong and completely legal position to take, the insider added.

A senior source said the request for options will allow a submission for a third Heathrow runway, while there’s speculation that BAA will seek a judicial review if it’s not permitted to submit an expansion argument. The insider added that the document will be worded carefully so that it doesn’t exclude any possible options to increase airport capacity.

The Department for Transport (DfT) says the government’s stance in regard to a third runway hasn’t changed – they are still against it. Shadow Transport Secretary Maria Eagle added that the only way a long-term strategy can be agreed on is if ministers take up their offer to work together on developing a sensible alternative to the rejected third runway and unworkable dream of a Thames estuary hub.

Meanwhile, International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general Tony Tyler has attacked the government’s failure to expand Heathrow, joining the group of senior business and airline leaders in urging a u-turn on the government’s position to a third runway. He says he thinks what’s happening in Britain is very sad, as it’s played a leading role in world aviation for many decades. This leading role will be severely dissolved unless something is done about airport capacity in the south-east, which really means Heathrow.

Tyler added that he thinks there’s an inadequate appreciation of the value that aviation contributes to the economy. He questions why London is a leading financial centre and answers that there are several reasons – one is the fact that it’s well connected to the rest of the globe. As connections begin to crumble due to pressure on capacity at Heathrow, they will see it getting damaged, and rivals will be there to make up and benefit from the slack. It’s up to the UK to make some hard political decisions that will benefit the UK over the long-term. The issue is that there could be a short-term political price for what’s necessary for the country to develop in the way it has before.




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