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NEWS Last modified on December 17, 2013

Reactions to Airports Commission’s interim report flood in

The UK aviation industry has been waiting months for the Davies Commission’s interim report, which was announced this morning.

London Gatwick – chosen alongside Heathrow for potential expansion – was the first airport to respond to the report, in a statement welcoming the Commission’s shortlist.

CEO, Stewart Wingate, said he believed that Gatwick’s eligibility as the future of UK aviation would be more widely recognised in the coming months.

He added: “The real debate starts now, not least on the environmental impacts and business case of each option.

“There is a lot of hard work and intense scrutiny ahead but we are confident that by summer 2015, there will be a wide recognition that expansion at Gatwick is the right choice for the future.”

Simon Buck, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association (BATA), shared a more cautious response, saying there was “much to digest”.

While BATA welcomes the Commission’s recognition of the need for additional runway capacity, it doesn’t have a preference of location.

Buck added: “It is now up to Sir Howard and his team to work on the shortlist of options, making sure they consider both cost and value for money as part of their assessment criteria.

“At the same time, politicians of all stripes must commit to supporting and implementing the Commission’s final recommendations when they are published in summer 2015.”

He warned: “The Commission’s findings have to be the final word on the crucial question of airport capacity for a considerable length of time.

“The UK cannot afford further procrastination and delay in dealing with this issue.”

Heathrow Airport responded to the report by saying it planned to consult next year to develop its proposals for a third runway in more detail.

A written statement from the hub said: “Heathrow does not agree with Gatwick’s stance that there can only be on new runway in the south east.

“We are pleased that the Commission recognises that there is not a binary choice between providing additional hub capacity or additional point-to-point capacity.”

It continued: “We would welcome a solution in which point to point airports were allowed to grow alongside the UK’s only hub airport to deliver choice for passengers and airlines.”

The statement went on to urge the government to make a clear decision upon the release of the Commission’s final report in 2015.

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) gave its initial response within minutes of the announcement, welcoming the Commission’s emphasis on new runway capacity.

CBI’s director-general, John Cridland, said in a statement: “There is now overwhelming evidence that direct flights open doors to new trade, but with capacity in the south-east set to run out as early as 2025, we need to see urgent action as soon as the Commission’s final recommendation is delivered to government in summer 2015.”

He warned: “It is no longer acceptable to bury our heads in the sand on this.”

Despite missing out on a spot on the Commission’s shortlist, Birmingham Airport also welcomed the interim report, saying it recognised Birmingham’s long-term role in UK aviation.

CEO, Paul Kehoe, said the airport’s hard work had paid off and the recognition was a positive step.

He stated: “Whatever the long-term solution, the Commission has also recognised the Birmingham Airport can grow immediately and we will work with the Government on the policy recommendations set out in this report in order to deliver this.”

However, concerns remain that the report does not address the whole British economy.

Kehoe added: “Despite the stated remit of the Commission to take a ‘UK-wide perspective’, the interim report focuses disproportionately on the south east, further entrenching the dominance of the south east economy to the detriment of the growth of the rest of the UK.”

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers also released a statement.

Head of transport and manufacturing, Philippa Oldham, said: “This shortlist offers some much welcome clarity on the country’s options.

“In drawing up this shortlist, the Airports Commission has rightly prioritised market demand and cost-effectiveness.

“But while the shortlist addresses the shortfall in aviation capacity, it is also vital that action is taken to ensure that the rest of our transport infrastructure can cope with this projected increase.”

The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) welcomed the report’s shortlist.

Chief executive, Dale Keller, commented: “Despite the inevitable challenges and disagreement that will follow, the vast majority of airlines believe that expanding Heathrow is now the only sensible way forward for the UK.

“Sir Howard and his team have correctly identified that other proposals would cost billions in public funding and could create mass relocations and associated social upheaval and economic pain, or not deliver on the core objectives.”

He added: “Airlines are also highly supportive of the inclusion of the optimisation strategy, with Sir Howard acknowledging that this is not only an issue of airlines adding more flights to meet increasing demand, but also about improving resilience and the customer experience.”

Simon Buck, chief executive of the British Air Transport Association (BATA), shared a more cautious response, saying there was “much to digest”.

While BATA welcomes the Commission’s recognition of the need for additional runway capacity, it doesn’t have a preference of location.

Buck added: “It is now up to Sir Howard and his team to work on the shortlist of options, making sure they consider both cost and value for money as part of their assessment criteria.

“At the same time, politicians of all stripes must commit to supporting and implementing the Commission’s final recommendations when they are published in summer 2015.”

He warned: “The Commission’s findings have to be the final word on the crucial question of airport capacity for a considerable length of time.

“The UK cannot afford further procrastination and delay in dealing with this issue.”

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has also applauded the Commission’s interim report.

Colin Stanbridge, chief executive, asserted: “Government should just get on and act on the short-term measures now.

“It will make no sense to delay any measures to enhance capacity until after the General Election.”

He continued: “Businesses are crying out for aviation action now. Political posturing would put the economic recovery at risk and threaten London’s reputation as a world leading city.”

More airports have put forward their responses, with Manston Airport echoing the need to support smaller, regional airports within the UK.

Chief executive, Charles Buchanan, said: “Our initial reaction is that we welcome the Commission’s assertion that Government policy should promote the benefits of smaller airports in London and the South East system.

“We are also pleased to see the call for local authorities to support the development of smaller local airports and, alongside consideration of their environmental impacts, recognise the positive benefits they can bring to their respective economies.”

Bristol Airport, however, believes the interim report focused too much on London and the south east and has urged the government not to overlook regional airports.

Robert Sinclair, CEO, said: “During what will clearly be a long and controversial process, it is important that Government does not lose sight of the role airport outside London can play in meeting demand for air travel in the regions.”

Despite this, he added: “The Commission’s recognition of the importance of investment in surface access to airports is particularly welcome,” noting the South Bristol Link will improve access to regional airports.

Sinclair concluded: “We are also pleased to see that the unrealistic and undeliverable Severnside Airport and Western Gateway proposals have been dismissed.

“This is clear recognition that Bristol Airport is best placed to meet demand from passengers in the south west and south Wales.”

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