Government must act quickly on Heathrow recommendation, says FTA

Following the long-awaited independent final report from the Davies Commission which recommends the building of a third runway at Heathrow, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) is urging the Government to make a quick decision on airport expansion in the south east.

However, the Prime Minister, who has stated that there will be a decision by the end of the year, is already under immense pressure to honour his 2010 pre-election “no-if, no buts” pledge against expansion.

David Cameron is also facing a potential backlash from senior Cabinet figures including Theresa May, Justine Greening, Philip Hammond, Theresa Villiers, Greg Hands and, of course, Boris Johnson who has already declared that “it’s not going to happen.”

The Davies Commission report concluded that Heathrow was the best option because of the economic benefits for the whole country, which included £147 billion in economic growth over the next 60 years and the creation on 70,000 new jobs by 2050.

Sir Howard Davies, who chaired the Commission, said Heathrow was best-placed to provide the type of capacity most urgently required – long-haul destinations to new markets.  He highlighted the huge benefits to the freight industry of expansion at Heathrow, which is the UK’s main hub for air freight.

Chris Welsh, FTA’s Director of Global and European Policy, said: “It is reassuring that Sir Howard has reviewed all the evidence and concluded that a third runway at Heathrow is the best option, ensuring the UK remains competitive in the global air freight market.

“Additional capacity at Heathrow is critical to allow importers and exporters to access new and emerging markets in Asia, South America and the Indian sub-continent.  FTA urges the Government to take on board these recommendations and act quickly.”

The Commission considered three options – extension to the existing runway at Heathrow or a new runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick.  Sir Howard said the commission rejected the runway extension scheme and had “unanimously” favoured building a third runway at Heathrow.  However, he said expansion at Gatwick was still a credible option.

The Commission’s recommendations are accompanied by a list of provisos designed to protect local residents.  These include a ban on night flights before 6am, a legally binding ‘noise envelope’ which will guarantee noise levels do not exceed current limits and a commitment in Parliament not to expand the airport further.

FTA’s own ‘Sky High Value’ report on airport capacity in the south east and a report commission by FTA and undertaken by York Aviation both confirmed Heathrow as a vital hub for air cargo and underlined that a failure to invest in new runway capacity would result in UK exporters and importers losing competitive edge to continental competitors with the real possibility of services transferring to airports on the continent.

Mr Welsh added: “We are delighted that the Davies Commission has recognised how important air freight is to the future success of the UK economy and it is clear that this has been a key factor in the recommendation to expand Heathrow.

“Heathrow is a world-class air cargo hub, and it is vital that is it able to expand to meet the demands of UK importers and exporters to enhance connectivity to emerging overseas markets.”