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Airports Commission reveals shortlist

The UK will need a new runway to be in operation by 2030 and a further one by 2050, the Airports Commission has concluded.

The publication of the commission’s independent review into airport capacity found that another runway should be located in the south east, and that there is likely to be a demand for a second additional operational runway by 2050.

The conclusions are valid across a range of assumptions about future demand growth, the report states, and are consistent with the Committee on Climate Change’s advice to government on meeting environmental targets.

The commission will undertake detailed study of three proposals: a runway to the south of Gatwick Airport; a runway to the northwest of Heathrow; or an extension of the existing northern runway at Heathrow.

There are “too many uncertainties and challenges” surrounding the Thames Estuary (sometimes known as ‘Boris Island’) options at this stage, the report stated. Further study will be undertaken into the Isle of Grain option in the first half of 2014, with conclusions published later next year.

Expansion at Stansted or Birmingham has not been shortlisted for the 2030 although the commission said “there is likely to be a case for considering them as potential options for any second new runway by 2050”.

The report also sets out recommendations for action to improve the use of existing runway capacity. This includes an optimisation strategy to improve operational efficiency, increase collaborative decision making and deliver a package of surface transport improvements, including the enhancement of Gatwick Airport Station.

Work to provide rail access into Heathrow from the south has also been recommended, and smart ticketing facilities should be introduced at airport stations. The government should introduce trials at Heathrow of measures to minimise stacking and delays, and establish an Independent Noise Authority to provide advice on future runways.

A final report will be published next summer.

Sir Howard Davies, chair 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.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The government welcomes the publication of the Airports Commission’s interim report. It represents a significant step forward in the commission’s work in assessing options for meeting the UK’s international aviation needs, ahead of the publication of its final recommendations expected in 2015.”

John Cridland, CBI Director-General, said: “We welcome the interim report of the independent Airports Commission, which is emphatic about the need for new runway capacity. 

“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.

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

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