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Coffee House

Britain can’t wait until 2015 for airport expansion

6 September 2012

3:05 PM

6 September 2012

3:05 PM

The Government has announced that it will appoint a bureaucrat to spend three years writing a report on the desperate and urgent shortage of air transport capacity in the south east of England.

Meanwhile, Heathrow will continue to operate at over 98 per cent of capacity with no spare runways to pick up the slack when something goes wrong; Britain will continue to lack direct flights to countless Chinese metropolises; and the Chinese economy will continue to boom, swelling by an estimated 25 per cent by the time Howard Davies has finished pondering the issues in 2015.

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We can’t wait that long and the solution is obvious. The immediate need for more capacity can only be met with a third runway at Heathrow. The Government should stop pussyfooting about and immediately introduce a Bill into Parliament providing for construction to start within months, bypassing the usual planning delays.

But Heathrow is poorly situated. An eventual replacement with space for four, six or even eight runways needs to be found with flight paths that don’t affect residential areas so that flights can be operated 24 hours a day without restriction. The obvious answer is a ‘Boris Airport’ in the Thames Estuary, but expanding Gatwick, Stanstead, Manston or finding a new site entirely could be a legitimate question for an official inquiry.

With the economy stuck in the doldrums and almost as many investors queuing up to build a third runway as there are planes circling endlessly over Heathrow waiting for a landing slot, the Government should be thoroughly ashamed of itself for kicking this pressing, vital issue into the long grass yet again.

Rory Meakin is a Research Associate at the TaxPayers’ Alliance.

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