Following the country’s decision to leave the EU – Brexit – and the Prime Minister, David Cameron’s decision to step down, last week, it was officially announced by Transport Secretary, Patrick McLaughlin, that the airport expansion decision would be delayed for the second time.
The original decision over which airport to expand –Heathrow or Gatwick – was delayed from the end of last year to this summer. However, many weren’t surprised, albeit disappointed, to learn that it had again been pushed to one side.
The decision however over expansion is critical. The UK risk losing out to other countries with larger hub airports and capacity such as Amsterdam and Dubai. Demand for travel in the UK isn’t slowing down. In fact, it’s growing at such a rate the two largest airports in the country, Heathrow and Gatwick, will be at capacity in a matter of months. The UK has seen record passenger growth according to annual passenger numbers published by the Civil Aviation Authority, far out stripping that predicted by the Department for Transport – 17 million more people have flown than it predicted, taking the total number of passengers in 2015 to 251 million.
Speaking about the Government’s announcement, AOA Chief Executive Darren Caplan said:
“The AOA is deeply disappointed that a year on from the Airports Commission’s Final Report, the Government has announced a further delay to its response to the Commission, until at least October. This is despite the Government’s firm commitment to decide by the end of 2015, which was then delayed until this summer. This additional delay comes at a time when all are agreed that clear action is needed to demonstrate the UK is open for business and confident about its future.
“At this time of increased uncertainty, the Government should be putting its foot on the accelerator of the UK economy – not delaying making important infrastructure decisions that can help it succeed. We continue to urge the Government to make a decision on airport capacity as soon as possible.
“We also urge the Government to update its Aviation Policy Framework as soon as possible too. The Framework was set in 2013 yet the Department for Transport’s own passenger forecasts from then show that London and South East airports will all be full up by 2030 and airports outside the South East will be filling up from 2040. As well as delivering the additional capacity the UK needs to enable world-class links to both existing and emerging markets, the Government really does need to show some urgency on wider UK airports policy, setting out how we can make better use of existing airport capacity around the UK, for example modernising UK airspace and enhancing surface access links to airports.”