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NEWS Last modified on December 17, 2013

New runway in South East unlikely to be at Thames Estuary Airport – Airports Commission

The UK will need at least one new runway in the South East by 2030 to remain competitive and meet future demand, according to the the Airports Commission’s independent review into airport capacity and connectivity.

Its analysis also indicates that there is likely to be a demand case for a second additional runway to be operational by 2050.

The Commission has not shortlisted any of the Thames Estuary options claiming that there are too many uncertainties and challenges surrounding them at this stage.

It claims that these conclusions are valid across a range of assumptions about future demand growth, and are consistent with the Committee of Climate Change’s advice to government on meeting its legislated climate change targets.

The Airports Commission’s Interim Report published today has announced that it will be taking forward for further detailed study proposals for new runways at two locations – Gatwick and Heathrow.

More specifically, Gatwick’s proposal for a new runway to the south of the existing runway and Heathrow's proposal for either a new 3,500m runway to the northwest or a plan to extend the existing Northern runway to at least 6,000m, enabling the extended runway to operate as two independent runways.

The next phase of its work will see the Commission undertaking a detailed appraisal of the three options identified before a public consultation in autumn next year.

It will undertake further study of the Isle of Grain option in the first half of 2014 and will reach a view later next year on whether that option offers a credible proposal for consideration alongside the other short-listed options.

The Commission has not shortlisted proposals for expansion at Stansted or Birmingham, however, there is likely to be a case for considering them as potential options for any second new runway by 2050.

In its final report the Commission will set out its recommendations on the process for decision making on additional capacity beyond 2030.

The report also contains recommendations to the government for immediate action to improve the use of existing runway capacity.

• An ‘Optimisation Strategy’ to improve the operational efficiency of UK airports and airspace, including: Airport Collaborative Decision Making; airspace changes supporting performance based navigation; enhanced en-route traffic management to drive tighter adherence to schedules; and Time Based Separation.

• A package of surface transport improvements to make airports with spare capacity more attractive to airlines and passengers, including: the enhancement of Gatwick Airport Station; further work to develop a strategy for enhancing Gatwick’s road and rail access; work on developing proposals to improve the rail link between London and Stansted; work to provide rail access into Heathrow from the south; and, the provision of smart ticketing facilities at airport stations.

• Trials at Heathrow of measures to smooth the early morning arrival schedule to minimise stacking and delays and to provide more predictable respite for local people.

• The establishment of an Independent Noise Authority to provide expert and impartial advice about the noise impacts of aviation and to facilitate the delivery of future improvements to airspace operations.

Launching the report, Sir Howard Davies, chairman of the Commission said: “Decisions on airport capacity are important national strategic choices and must be based upon the best evidence available. 

"The Commission has undertaken a fresh, comprehensive and transparent study of the issues. This report is the product of extensive consultation, independent analysis and careful consideration by the Commissioners.

“The UK enjoys excellent connectivity today. The capacity challenge is not yet critical but it will become so if no action is taken soon and our analysis clearly supports the provision of one net additional runway by 2030. In the meantime we encourage the government to act on our recommendations to make the best of our existing capacity.

“The Commission will now focus on the challenge of appraising the three options, further assessing the case for a new airport in the Thames Estuary, and delivering a robust final recommendation to Government in summer 2015.”

The report notes the historic failure to deliver new airport capacity in the UK and the Commission’s independent approach to the challenge. 

It confirms that a fresh look at the UK’s aviation needs was timely and necessary, setting out how much the global economy, the aviation industry and the domestic and international policy environment has evolved since the Government last considered these issues in the 2003 Air Transport White Paper.

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